With everyone trying to undertake healthy lifestyles, the Marketing Magicians have come up with labels, trends, and key words to entice the buyer. Sometimes the fancy attributes fall short. After reading this you will be armed with the knowledge to avoid buying something that is nothing more than a flashy marketing tool.
Let’s take the magic out of the marketing.
1. FAT FREE OR LOW FAT
This may look and sound good on the surface. Some foods are high in fat and may not be good for you. Though it has long been dispelled, the thought that fat makes you fat will never die. If you find the same food with the fat content lowered or removed it may sound better for you. But… Chances are it isn’t. There is a reason foods such as milk and ice cream taste good and rich. There is a reason beef has more flavor than chicken. The reason is fat! In a 2015 study, researchers from Purdue University concluded that fat itself should be considered a taste (like sweet, bitter, etc.) called Oleogustus.
When you remove fat you tend to lose a lot of the flavor. Manufacturers won’t risk selling something that doesn’t taste up to par so they fix the problem, with sugar. Sugar is added to compensate for the removal of fat and loss of flavor. This does nothing but add empty calories and lead to weight gain. Your best bet is to stick with the regular version of foods but choose foods rich in mono and poly unsaturated fats. The exception would be naturally fat free foods.
This has become hugely popular (and disturbingly trendy) in the past several years. You can find everything from fruits to hair care products boasting organic labels. Organic means foods that are grown or produced without the addition of chemical fertilizers, manmade additives, or subjected to pesticides or other chemicals.
This can have many benefits, and also come at a higher cost and pray on the consumer’s desire to be healthy.
Fit Tip: The best guideline to use for produce is skin thickness. Fruits with very thin skin like strawberries and grapes can absorb pesticide used in the farming process. However, bananas and grapefruits have thicker skins that you don’t eat and protect the fruit.
A lot of foods marked organic are not always worth the extra money. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean it has a higher nutritional content or that it is even from a local farm.
Food For Thought….
An interesting side note, Forbes published an article noting a UC Berkeley biochemist who proclaimed that consumers who buy organic to avoid pesticide exposure are focusing on one one-hundredth of 1% of pesticides consumed.
This is similar to organic. Marketing magic and health foods take on a disturbing twist when it comes to wording. Natural means no artificial fillers, additives, or ingredients are present in the food. That does not mean they are healthy. I was just in the store this morning and saw Natural Pre-made Pizza Crust. The package had a long list of NO phrases listing all the bad stuff that was left out. On the back, in small print, was enriched flour, and sugar. So while there are no fillers, they made the product using white flour and white sugar. You won’t get a belly full of chemicals but you will get a rapid spike in glucose levels!
4. NATURAL GROCERY STORES
I won’t mention names because this isn’t an attack on such stores. However, just because the store claims to sell natural products doesn’t mean they are healthy. At times, I will shop at a store like this; I always see trendy looking women and men with a cart full of stuff (they usually wear yoga or workout clothes). I’m sure if I asked them why they shop there they would say something about health. Sadly, for others it is a status symbol similar to fancy coffeehouse drinks and designer clothes. Consumers pay for this status symbol as well. Often a lot more than what your local grocery chain will charge.
The problem is that these natural stores isn’t necessarily healthy. For example, they sell natural soft drinks. While these drinks may not contain high fructose corn syrup, they do contain just as much if not more sugar than a leading brand.
They also have a nice bakery; the display case has cinnamon rolls and cookies the size of truck tires. These baked goods contain more sugar than two cans of your favorite soft drink and more fat than a fast food cheese burger with fries.
Again I’m not criticizing these stores; however, you should be mindful that they don’t always offer a healthy alternative. Furthermore, many major grocery chains now carry similar clean products at a fraction of the cost. For example, I just saw Kroger brand Alkaline water for seventy-nine cents for a 20- ounce bottle versus $2.00 plus for the name brands.
5. HEALTHY RESTAURANT OPTIONS
Back in the early 2000s restaurants got on a health kick, especially fast food places. As the obesity problem became more apparent the restaurant industry made an attempt (under pressure) to keep your business by adding healthier options. Restaurant food is notorious for containing excess and often unnecessary amounts of fat, sugar and salt. Fast food restaurants came under fire for contributing to obesity with high calorie indulgence feasts. So they introduced salads and healthy menu items.
These items weren’t always good for you either.
These numbers were taken from the nutritional content of a leading fast food chain’s website. Please remember this is not an attempt to criticize them thus why their name is not mentioned.
Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken.
Calories 430, Fat 20 grams, Sodium 920mg, Cholesterol 55mg, Sugars 12 grams.
Calories 440, Fat 23 grams, Sodium 1150 mg, Cholesterol 80 mg, Sugars 7 grams.
So the cheese burger only has 10 more calories, three more grams fat, 230 more milligrams sodium, and 25 milligrams more cholesterol than the salad. And it has less sugar.
A single cheese burger contains 130 calories less than the salad. Less 8 grams fat. And less 170 mg sodium.
My conclusion, if you want healthy food make it at home or go to a restaurant that specializes in healthy food. I’m of the opinion that fast food, chain restaurants, and the alike are there to serve cheeseburgers, fries, bar food etc. If you want to eat there, be mindful that the food may taste good but may not be healthy.
Another Example of Marketing Magic and Health Food
Fit Fact: Fast food grilled chicken is usually brushed with butter when put on the grill to enhance flavor. Remember fat is flavor. Don’t go there simply seeking out a healthy option. I’m not a fan of wanting something to be what it’s not. If I want a pizza I’m going to my friend’s Italian deli and knowing it tastes good and is a calorie bomb, and that’s ok.
6. BOLD WORDS
These are words like Premium, New & Improved, Special, Limited Edition, etc.
These words are triggers. “Premium” doesn’t mean healthy. However, when you see this you may think it is better than the normal version. Or “New & Improved” can mean they’ve added more sugar so it tastes better.
The only real indicator is the nutritional label and ingredients. Both of which are not found in bold colors on the front, but rather in small black & white print on the back.
The conclusion? Healthy foods should be grounded in the foundation of their macronutrient content (protein, fat, carbohydrate) and their ingredients. When was the last time you saw broccoli boasting that it is good for you? Have you ever seen apples be “New and Improved”? They are healthy without hidden ingredients and fancy bold words. With that in mind I wonder if a fast food chain called McBroccoli or Asparagus King would go over well. Thoughts?