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May 22, 2006


Healthy food: a new low in consumer self-delusion

From an article on the struggles many Americans face when trying to lose weight:

On a mission to whip herself into shape, Kate Kowalczyk tossed out the junk food and stocked up on her idea of good-for-you staples like yogurt and low-fat cookies. Despite her persistence, the 35 pounds she was trying to shake wouldn't budge.

It turns out those "healthy" foods were just as fattening as the chips and soda they replaced: The yogurt was filled with Reese's Pieces and the low-fat cookies were brimming with sugar that kept her hunger on razor's edge.

Her healthy yogurt had Reese's Pieces in it?! Why, that's candy! How ever did that candy get into her healthy yogurt?

Some consumer product research suggests that the yogurt that Ms. Kowalczyk selected as one of her "good-for-you" purchases was this:

Yogurt with Reese's

which as you can see has a big REESE'S logo right smack on the front of the packaging. "It's all in the advertising — you see this bright packaging that says it's good for you," said Kowalczyk, 34.

That's where I have to disagree with you, Kate. That bright packaging doesn't say it's good for you, it says CANDY. Plus you can totally see the Reese's Pieces right there in the lid of the yogurt.

Dieticians say that people will pretend that all kinds of ridiculous things are a good to eat while trying to lose weight: "Some weight watchers manage to convince themselves blueberry pie has its place in a diet — simply because it features a fruit, said Marlene Clark, a registered dietitian at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. 'Just because the basic thing is healthy doesn't mean it's a healthy dish,' Clark said."

The article then goes on to point out that just because a snack food item may be organic or all-natural, it may still have the same number of calories as the regular variety (example: an ounce of Pringles potato chips: 160 calories, an ounce of Barbara's Bakery chips: 150 calories.) It's no secret that food companies work hard to maintain an illusion of healthiness in many of their products, but people, please. That defense only goes so far. Deciphering deceptive packaging and obsessively comparing fat content can be tedious, so let me make it really simple.

If you want to lose weight, don't eat chips. Or candy. Or cookies. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Kraft and Snackwell are a bunch of liars. Tough love!

categories: Business, Health
posted by amy at 12:30 PM | #

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that goes for your "Vitamin Water" and your "Fuze" drinks, too. Vitamin Water is loaded with sugar, and the Fuze iced tea makes a big deal about not having "High Fructose Corn Syrup." It does, however, have "Fructose Crystals" which are most likely derived from -- surprise! -- corn sugar. In both cases, the amount of sugar in these drinks is up around Snapple territory.

Posted by: ADM at May 22, 2006 1:36 PM

(watch me rationalize my VitaminWater addiction) To be fair, your average VitaminWater has about half the sugar per serving of regular Snapple tea with lemon -- 13g per 8 fluid oz versus 23g per 8 fluid oz. So it's better than most regular sweetened drinks, and has the added health benefit of obnoxiously self-aware packaging.

Posted by: Matthew Saunders at May 22, 2006 7:08 PM

Good rationalization, Matthew, but I think Vitamin Water uses the old "2.5 servings per container" trick to keep up appearances, so you're still getting around 33g of sugar per bottle, which is really a lot. Granted, a lot of Snapple has insane levels of sugar in it (56g per bottle for instance), but the Vitamin Water is still way up there. And again, that's "fructose crystals" in there. Although there are some good vitamins, too, it's really a waste to add all that sugar.

Posted by: ADM at May 23, 2006 1:22 AM

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