Archive for the tag - fat-free

Study: Product Packaging Misleads Consumers.

Cherry 7upLast week, I shared 5 misleading nutrition marketing words that you should ignore on product packaging. Of course, the reason that marketers use those words in the first place is that they’re effective in generating sales. And now, a new study by researchers from the University of Houston is showing how effective those words really are.

For the study, researchers recruited 318 undergraduate students and asked them to rate the nutrition of various products. Students were able to examine the packaging and nutrition information for products including Chocolate Cheerios (labeled whole grain), Cherry 7-Up (labeled antioxidant), Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks (labeled organic) and more. All the marketing terms actually appear on the product packaging.

Researchers digitally removed the buzzwords from some of the packaging, and randomly presented students with the products. For every single product, students rated foods with the marketing words to be significantly healthier than if the word wasn’t included. In other words, including the word “antioxidant” made participants view Cherry 7-Up as healthier.

According to the researchers:

It is perhaps time that the food industry take responsibility for how they market their foods and acknowledge the role they play in keeping consumers in the United States misinformed about what is healthy to eat. Healthy foods exist, many of which are organic, whole grain, natural and all of those other things that many foods today are being labeled. However, using those labels on foods such as soda only serve to sell a drink rather than inform consumers about the actual health content of the product.

While it’s unlikely that the food industry will take responsibility for their role in consumer misinformation, perhaps we have more hope in getting the FDA to regulate such buzzwords – or even take the basic step of defining what “natural” really means.

Clearly, consumers need better education when it comes to nutrition. And by reading this article, you’ve already demonstrated that you’re one step ahead.

 

5 Misleading Nutrition Marketing Words!

Misleading-food-labelsMarketers are clever – especially when it comes to the packaging on the foods we eat. Some of the terms are especially misleading, and so I’ve put together a list of the top 5 nutrition-related marketing words to ignore. Despite their sexiness, these words don’t necessarily imply a nutritional benefit.

  1. Fat-free, low fat or reduced fat. First things first, the low fat craze of the 80s and 90s made Americans even fatter than ever. Though it seems counter-intuitive, fat doesn’t make you fat. Consuming more calories than you burn results in body fat. Moreover, our bodies need the healthy, essential fats to function properly (think avocados, nuts and olive oil). If a food is fat-free or low fat, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy. For example, Skittles are low fat – but they’re definitely not healthy and extremely calorie dense. Moreover, many manufacturers reduce that fat content in their low fat foods by adding sugar or salt. That’s not a good thing.
  2. Gluten-free. Unless you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten (which, it turns out, is a very small percentage of the population), there’s no need to cut gluten from your diet. Though marketers have managed to link the term gluten-free to implied nutritional benefits, there’s actually no correlation between the two. And nutritionists warn that following a gluten-free diet can increase the risk for nutritional deficiencies for vitamins and minerals found in foods that contain gluten.
  3. Detox. Foods (think juices and so-called cleanses) don’t detoxify your body. That’s a job performed by the liver and kidneys. If you’re looking to reduce toxins in your body, don’t put them there in the first place. Eliminate smoking, alcohol or foods laden with pesticides – like the dirty dozen.
  4. Low carb. Much like the essential fats, our bodies need carbohydrates to function properly. Not to mention, carbohydrates are our bodies’ main energy source. If you eliminate or overly reduce carbohydrates, you’ll feel sluggish and your performance (including at the gym) will suffer. Instead of eliminating carbohydrates, focus on eating complex carbohydrates from whole wheat foods, brown rice, beans and so on. Reduce simple carbohydrates like those found in candy, sugary drinks and pastries.
  5. Natural. Though many foods claim to be natural, the FDA has declined to define the term. In other words, marketers can really use the term to mean whatever they want. By the FDA’s non-definition, even high fructose corn syrup can be considered natural. After all, isn’t it derived from corn? Just because a product is labeled as natural, it doesn’t mean that it’s organic and it definitely doesn’t imply a nutritional benefit.

To really cut through the hype, it’s important to look past the pretty packaging and actually read the nutrition label and list of ingredients on any product you consume. This will give you a much better idea of how the product measures up.

Myth: Low Fat Foods Are Healthy.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASkittles are a low-fat food. But if you eat a lot of skittles, I promise that you’ll still get fat.

Just because something is labeled “low fat” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. And conversely, not all foods containing fat are unhealthy.

Limiting trans and saturated fats is important. In fact, current dietary guidelines recommend that less than 7% of your total calories should come from saturated fat. But fat is just part of the equation.

When we talk about weight management, the formula is pretty simple. To maintain weight, you need to eat the same amount of calories that your body burns. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize that there are many unhealthy, calorie-dense foods with little or no fat. Like skittles.

Beyond saturated and trans fat, pay attention to carbohydrates. While complex carbohydrates are essential, many low fat foods are packed with simple carbohydrates including table sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice, white flour, etc.

Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Heart Association recommend no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day, and no more than 1,500 mg for high risk groups. To add flavor, manufacturers often pump low fat or reduced fat foods with sodium – so read the nutrition label carefully.

Last but not least, remember that fat isn’t always a bad thing. Unsaturated fats – like those found in olive oils, nuts, avocados, etc. – are essential for proper bodily function.

5 More Fitness Myths Busted!

It takes a lot more than protein to create a body like this.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: There’s so much misinformation when it comes to health, nutrition and fitness. Today, let’s bust a few of the most common and most pervasive myths.

Myth #1: Soda is bad for you – so drink fruit juice instead

It’s true that soda is bad for you, but fruit juice isn’t much better. Sure, it may have some additional vitamins. But even fruit juice is loaded with sugar and calories. As a response to sugar, the body releases insulin – which triggers increased fat storage. Instead of drinking soda, drink water. The only time when drinking sugary beverages make sense is immediately following a workout when the body is craving carbs – and it needs them quickly. Simple sugars get absorbed the fastest.

Myth #2: A fat-free diet is good for you!

Definitely not. Your body needs fat. Essential fats help facilitate many of your body’s functions, and help promote a healthy heart and joints, among other things. If you cut out all the fat from your diet, you’d become very, very sick. Instead, focus on consuming the healthier fats – like those found in fish and plants.

Myth #3: A high-protein diet will make your muscles grow

Not true. A high-protein diet does help support muscle growth; muscles need protein to grow. But muscles will only grow if they are forced to do so – and it takes exercise (and increasingly heavier amounts of resistance) to make that happen.

Myth #4: Drinking lots of water makes you gain weight

Actually, drinking lots of water helps boost your metabolism and burn calories. In fact, numerous studies have shown that the opposite of this myth is true – that if you don’t drink enough water, you’re more likely to gain body fat. When the body is dehydrated, it is under stress – and the body’s reaction to stress is retaining fat. If you aren’t getting enough water, you’re selling yourself – and your results – short.

Myth #5: Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs

Actually, the color of the egg has nothing to do with the nutritional content. The breed of the hen determines the egg’s color. This myth likely resulted from the nutritional differences between white and wheat bread – but it has no scientific foundation.

There you have it! Five more health, fitness and nutrition myths finally busted! Stay tuned for more. 🙂

And on a related side note, another fitness myth is that you need to use fancy equipment to make big fitness gains. Not true. In fact, I created my brand-new Jock Workout to be an equipment-free workout that you can do at home (or at the gym) without anything else to buy. Check it out today – and watch the free preview. Use discount code “blog” before June 7th to save 25% during checkout. Enjoy!

Why Low-Fat/Fat-Free Means Very Little.

Swedish fish: A fat-free food that's likely to make you fat.

Yesterday, a package of those sugary, chewy “Swedish Fish” candies caught my eye. On the product’s package was a banner that exclaimed, “A fat free food.” And while this bag of candy may be devoid of fat, do not be tricked by this treat – there is nothing healthy about it.

Of course, Swedish Fish candies aren’t alone – countless products try to position themselves as attractive options for dieters by touting their low-fat or fat-free nutritional content. But really, that one characteristic tells a very incomplete story about the product’s nutritional value (or lack thereof).

Firstly, fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As we all know, there are bad fats (like those found in fried foods) and good fats (like those found in nuts, olive oil and avocados). Getting those essential healthy fats is important. If you had to pick between a package of Swedish Fish and a handful of unsalted nuts, opting for the fat-free option would be a big misstep. There are many higher-fat food products that are healthy and nourishing.

Secondly, a fat-free label says nothing about the rest of the nutritional content. Like sodium, carbs, calories and sugars. While Swedish Fish may have no fat content, it’s made out of sugar! Sugar is absolutely terrible for the human body – especially if you are looking to release or maintain your body weight. Sugar is flushed with empty calories, has been linked to a number of debilitating and deadly diseases and is quite possibly addictive. In addition, many fat-free salad dressings, for example, cut out the fat but add in extra sugar to enhance the flavoring. The same is often done with salt. Clearly, the fat-free label isn’t telling the full story.

So get the whole truth. Ignore the so-called healthy benefits touted on a product’s packaging. Look at the complete nutritional information (usually found on the side of the packaging) and make an informed decision from there.