Episode 186 – How Nutrition Companies Trick You Into Thinking Something is HealthyPosted on September 23, 2016
Nutrition companies can sometimes be a little bit sleezy with their marketing, soft drink companies that advertise their products as a way to make you happy that should be part of a well balanced life, microwavable dinners that apparently offer a ‘healthy’ and convenient way to eat for busy moms on the run and who can forget the classic gluten free Oreo, it says gluten free so it must be healthy right? Not so fast Nebisco! Today we’re talking health washing and how you can be more aware of it to help you make better decisions as you make your way through the grocery store aisle.
Also, It is Funday Friday so please stick around until the end of the show because we are giving one lucky listener that has left us an iTunes rating and review a free lifetime membership to our online fitness and lifestyle design community where we have 100’s of exercise programs and over a dozen courses to guide you into being the most active version of yourself. But enough of this preamble, let’s get to it.
So what is health washing?
Healthwashing is the practice of making unhealthy or moderately healthy foods seem more healthy than they actually are. For example I was recently in the grocery store when I saw this, a sign that is clearly labelled natural and organic, in the health and wellness section. Now the store had strategically placed a whole assortment of pizza pockets right beside it, which is not health washing, more like strategic placement because many people are drawn to the health and wellness section, I mean who doesn’t want to be healthier?
Anyways directly below the sign are the organic and natural products and since this is the freezer section it is predominantly boxed food, made up of frozen lasagnas, organic pizza pockets and macaroni and cheese, in green and plain boxes that say things like natural and organic, which would legally be true. Now these options are slightly healthier than the non-organic equivalents, they probably have 1 or 2 more grams of fibre, they may have some good micronutrients listed, like Vitamin A or calcium and they may have no preservatives, but if you were to flip the boxes over and compare the two side to side from a macronutrient perspective they will be almost identical, the next time you’re in the grocery store take a look and you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.
Now, how can you spot it? Every product is a little bit different, but here are some big ones, over use of the colour green, this can be tricky because lot’s of products that are actually healthy also use green so you will need to pay attention and read the labels.
Next up, using the word natural on the box, legally natural doesn’t mean anything and it can be put on any product as long as it came from a natural non-synthesized source, which at some point is basically all food. Another one could be organic, just because something is organic doesn’t mean healthy, there’s a local soft drink company right around the corner from where I live that makes organic pop and it is delicious, but it still has 50 more calories per serving than most other softdrinks, so is it healthier? I don’t really think so.
Also, anything that is free of anything, fat free, cholesterol free, sugar free, gluten free, if something says it’s free of one thing it’s usually to divert your attention away from other things that are bad in it, Oreos have always been gluten free, sugar doesn’t have gluten in it and absence of gluten does not mean healthy.
I personally think Cholesterol free is the biggest sham of all and most cracker companies are guilty of this. They put ‘cholesterol free’ on the box, which is fine maybe they are cholesterol free, but we now know that most of the cholesterol in our body is made by our body not with dietary cholesterol, but from dietary fat, which crackers tend to be really high in, on top of this they are calorie dense, usually made of some kind of refined flour and when you eat lots of food that is high in refined carbohydrates your body turns that into, you guessed it fat, which your body then turns a percentage of into cholesterol or stores as fat on your body.
Another way companies health wash is they make the serving size really small in the nutritional information. Most breakfast cereals do this a lot trying to hide the amount of sugar in them, because they know once you get home, you pour yourself the same size bowl regardless and all they care about is that you walk out of the store with their brand.
I’m quite sure companies use other methods, I’m just not sure what they are and I know this is really important because many consumers are tricked into eating things they perceive as healthier and worse than being tricked, we also know from research, that when something is labelled gluten or fat free we are much more likely to eat more of it because there is less guilt associated with it and sometimes the perception that we’re doing something healthy, of course I can eat as many oreos as I want they’re fat and gluten free.
What can you do about it, start by reading and comparing labels, this is time consuming on the front end but once you know the better options your shopping can get a lot faster, also like I said in an early episode if there are no ingredients on it, that means it’s a whole food and is probably healthy to eat, I mean oranges are fat and gluten free, but we’ll never see a sign in the store that says that and now you know why, because they don’t have to, everyone already knows oranges are healthy.
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