I wrote this article some time ago for WeightMatters, www.weightmatters.co.uk , health clinics who help people change the way they eat – forever.
But having watched Monday night’s Jeremy Vine’s Panorama documentary on BBC1 about children’s diets, I am shocked again by how many people are confused about food and taken in my the marketing hype of food manufacturers.
So here it is again, some handy tips & hints to help you make up your own mind about what to feed yourself and your children.
Marketing versus science
Do you ever look at the nutrition labels on many processed foods and ingredients and regret that you never did do A level chemistry!
Overwhelming us with excessive nutritional information and spurious health claims is one way in which food manufacturers cleverly try to persuade us to buy their products.
However, armed with a basic understanding of the classic marketing tactics, getting label savvy is easy.
Common labelling tricks
“Low GI” (low glyceamic index) means that an ingredient or product contains low GI carbohydrates, which are digested slowly, helping to keep you feeling full for longer.
You may assume that all foods bearing the “low GI” symbol are a healthy choice and in the case of for example wholegrain basmati rice and oatcakes, this assumption is correct. However, some foods like ice cream and chocolate are low GI because their high fat content slows down the digestion of sugar.
Savvy tip: remember, although a food may be low GI, it still supplies calories and could be high in fat.
Foods with this description have had sugar replaced with artificial ingredients such as sorbitol. Because sorbitol does not raise blood sugar as quickly as normal sugar, manufacturers do not count it as a carbohydrate. However, low carb products often contain the same calories as the original, normal carbohydrate, version.
Savvy tip: be aware, low carb does not necessarily equal low calorie.
Light or “lite”
These descriptions can refer to the texture of the product, meaning it is light in consistency. Examples of this are a “light” chicken liver pâté or “light” fruit cake. It does not mean that the product has fewer calories than an equivalent, non-light, product.
Savvy tip: ignore the “light” claim and instead check the nutritional breakdown per 100g and per serving.
The legal definition of “low fat” is that the product in question contains less than 3g of fat per 100g. However, low fat spreads have their own rules and to count as “low fat” the product must contain less than 40g of fat per 100g.
Savvy tip: there is no such thing as a spread that is truly low in fat. Personally, I much prefer to use a small quantity of real butter which gives you all the delicious taste but none of the chemicals added to margarine.
Peach “flavour” yoghurt is yoghurt that gets its taste from artificial peach flavours. A peach “flavoured” yoghurt however must have most of its taste coming from the real thing. A cheaper, healthier and often tastier option is to mix some real fresh or dried fruit through some naturally low fat plain yoghurt.
Savvy tip: to cut down on artificial flavourings, avoid products that use the word “flavour”.
Emotive words are used to persuade us to buy a product but they actually mean very little. Examples of this are “farm fresh”, “country style” and “ocean fresh”.
Savvy tip: don’t be persuaded by the marketing hype and check the nutritional information on the pack.
For more information on healthy eating and how to make dinner time easier and more delicious, go to www.savvycook.co.uk .