Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Health Food? Really, You Could Have Fooled Me!

OK, time for just a wee bit of venting here. Schools here in Nova Scotia are supposed to be providing our kids with a "healthy diet" while they're in schools. Well, it sure doesn't look that way to me. I just want to address one simple issue today in that regard, and that's the sale of chocolate milk in our high school vending machines.

You cannot sell Pepsi in the school (which is cool with me) but you CAN sell this crap masquerading as a health food (which is NOT cool with me.)

A cup of this "healthy beverage" contains FIFTY-SEVEN percent of its calories from sugar and TWENTY-FIVE percent of its calories from fat, the majority of which is saturated and trans fats.

An average bottle out of the vending machine (which is 500 mls, and come on, who shares these things?) will give a growing teenager 360 calories, 182 of which are pure sugar, compared to only 220 calories for a similar amount of Pepsi and only slightly less sugar. This is a few nutrients mixed in with a whole lot of unhealthy slop.

The label tells me that this product will give me, per 100 calories, the following nutrients. I'll compare them with the nutrition you would receive from a few other foods:

Notice how this supposed "health food" has only a fraction of the nutrition that true "health food" contains, but more than enough of the sugar and saturated fat we do NOT need. Even when it comes to calcium, dairy is a nutritional weakling next to little 'ol kale. Not only that, but the calcium in kale is much more bioavailable. (It is absorbed more easily.) Not only that, but excess animal protein in the diet makes our blood more acidic, leading to the leaching of calcium from our bones.
We only have so many calories that we can healthfully consume in a day; we cannot, with the obesity epidemic we are facing, afford to waste those precious calories on high fat, high sugar, low nutrition foods.
I think if school want to actually promote healthy living, they need to start actually paying some attention to what actually constitutes a healthy food, and stop promoting nutritional disasters in sheeps clothing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why I Think We Should Keep our Junk Food "Junky"

Recently, while I was out trolling my local supermarket, I happened to spy this new product from Kraft:

Now, the box of Three Cheese Shellls is old news, but I neglected to get a picture of just the box on the left, Kraft Dinner "Smart" Three Cheese Pasta Dinner, which claims to give you a half serving of vegetables along with your daily dose of fat and sodium. (The vegetables apparently come in the form of pureed cauliflower in the pasta.)

It turns out that spotting this product was a bit like spotting a Yeti; no one seems to have ever heard about it before, and even Kraft's own website seems to imply that it doesn't actually exist. I feel special.

I wanted to get the low-down on this rare creature, so I bought it along with the Three Cheese shells in order to make a comparison. Then, I enlisted three experts (KD Eatin' teenagers) to taste test them for me and give me their unbiased opinion.

First, the basics. On first glance, they cost the same amount, $1.39 per box. But on closer inspection, the Kraft Smart only has three servings inside instead of four, making the Kraft Smart actually eleven cents more per serving. (For eleven cents, why even bother trying to get a mre half-serving of vegetables into you? Eleven cents will buy you a half-serving of, let's say, peas or carrots.)

Considering the dry mix only, Kraft Smart actually is slightly worse for you than the regular. The calories (180) fat (2 grams) cholesterol (5 mg) and even FIBRE (2 grams) are exactly the same in both, but the Kraft Smart has 20 milligrams more sodium and a gram more sugar.

What the heck?

Sure, there are tiny amounts of some vitamins, but not nearly enough to make eating this product worthwhile, because it. Was. GROSS!

We could smell it when the pasta hit the hot water. A horrible stink, reminiscent of sweaty feet, filled my kitchen. The pasta cooked up OK, and looked pretty much like regular KD, but it was really hard to get past the smell. Harder still was the lingering, cauliflower-esque aftertaste that grew stronger with each bite. (I have to confess I stopped at three bites. That was all of it I could stand.)

Not only that, three hungry teenagers refused to eat more than a few bites of this stuff, and instead hung around starving for fifteen more minutes while I made the box of shells and cheese instead. That by itself has to tell you something.

To me, I have to say that I like my health foods healthy and my junk foods junky. That makes it easy for the average joe to tell the difference. There's nothing wrong with the occasional treat, as long as 90% of your diet is otherwise nutritionally dense. Go ahead and have Kraft Dinner once in a while, but if you do, don't try and think you're doing yourself any favours by buying products like this one that try to deceive you into believing they are "smart choices." I happen to think that companies who try and convince us that crap is actually good for us should get a good spanking.