Nutrition Fiction

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While flipping through a popular health and wellness magazine today, I was a little surprised at some of their nutritional suggestions.

I am an armchair expert, admittedly with no formal training in nutrition and look to articles written by others to provide me with much of my information. Through this process, I have a heightened awareness of what is good for you, and what is not. Clearly, some of what I read falls into the latter category.

First up on the agenda: The 2013 Healthy Food Awards.

In this segment, 175 readers blind tested foods that the editors and contributing registered dieticians selected and deemed healthy.

The winners all came in a package, something that generally doesn’t spell “super food” to me.

With categories like “best potato chip”, “best nuked popcorn” and “best chewy granola bar” on the list, it’s hard to grasp the concept of these foods being healthy.

The next page featured celebrity chefs’ recipes using kale, which they dubbed “the holy grail of health.”

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Kale and Watercress Soup has white potatoes, whole milk and heavy cream. It is 252 calories per serving.

I don’t know about you, but the soups I usually enjoy are closer to 80-120 calories per serving. The potatoes, when pureed, should be enough to give the soup a creamy texture, making the heavy cream and milk unnecessary. Using broth instead of the dairy, would probably add more flavor to the soup, and a fraction of the calories and fat.

Instead of the suggested garnish of low fat sour cream, how about recommending a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt? It is lower in calories and fat than the sour cream, and is higher in protein and contains healthy probiotics.

As an avid and well-informed reader, I am concerned that a magazine of this type, would feature foods that are processed, high in saturated fat, and not the best, healthiest versions available. This is not a food magazine, where the flavor and ingredients take center stage, nutritional aspects be damned.

This is a magazine about healthy eating, fitness and wellness. They owe it to their readers to provide them with informed choices. High fat, high calorie soup is not healthy, just because it has a trendy super-food in it.

Processed foods laden with preservatives, huge amounts of sodium and a few unpronounceable ingredients, often in potentially toxic packages, are not healthy, just because they are organic, or lower in calories than their counterparts.

So how does the average consumer get real information about the seemingly healthy foods that are not in fact, as healthy as they seem?

Let me introduce you to a not so secret weapon called Fooducate.
Fooducate is a website and an app for smart phones that offers nutritional profiles culled from a huge database of supermarket foods.  The free app allows you to scan the food’s barcode, and it provides a breakdown of the item’s nutritional data from a list of ingredients to calories, fat and sodium contents, chemicals and preservatives, information about what makes it a good or bad choice, and sums it up with a letter grade. It is a valuable resource for those who want to make wise decisions in the food aisles. The app also offers daily tips, and can help zero in on gluten free or diabetic friendly foods as well.

Perhaps the experts featured in my magazine might benefit from swiping a few of the foods they list, before awarding them best healthy food status.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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2 Responses to “Nutrition Fiction”

  1. Susan Says:

    Just a thought on the soup contents, Did they give the nutritional value and the target consumers? Also, I think that there are good fats to be consumed especially if procured from clean reliable sources and in clinically proven amounts that provide vitamins not found in some plants or low fat.

  2. Jeffrey T. Harris Says:

    These low-calorie alternatives provide new ideas for old favorites. When making a food choice, remember to consider vitamins and minerals. Some foods provide most of their calories from sugar and fat but give you few, if any, vitamins and minerals.

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