A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Marketing Dishonesty in Food

Last weekend a friend of mine was visiting from out of town, and when we spotted a frozen yogurt bar next to the restaurant where we had eaten we decided to go there for dessert.  I got nutella and peanut butter twist frozen yogurt, topped with more nutella (MOAR NUTELLA!) and some chocolate chips.

It was a sweet, decadent, delicious treat the likes of which I will have around once every two to three months.  It was fantastic.  I enjoyed every bite.  I regret nothing.

Here’s what I have a problem with:

What I ate last weekend should not under any circumstances be classified as health food.  Trying to bill it as such is dishonest, annoying, and frankly dangerous.  The intentional attempt to mislead consumers into thinking that this gigantic wallop of sugar is a great way to boost your immune system and build strong bones makes me want to beat somebody senseless with a waffle cone.

The truth is that the product I ate contains 22 grams of sugar and 150 calories per half cup.  Since my total serving was probably closer to 1 & ½ cups, that’s 66 grams of sugar and 450 calories and that’s before I dumped more nutella and chocolate chips on top.

It’s okay for a treat to be a treat.  It’s a treat exactly because we don’t and shouldn’t eat that way every day.  I don’t even eat treats like that every week or every month, it’s about a quarterly indulgence and even that is more frequently than is smart to hork down three days’ worth of sugar in a single serving.  It is never smart to eat that much sugar in one go, but I love it and I do sometimes indulge because I’m trying to put food in its proper place in my life rather than continuing to pathologically abstain, obsess, and then binge.

I study food and nutrition so it’s easy for me to recognize that billing a sugar-frosted yogurt bar as health food is a complete crock of horse poo.  However, not everyone has the time or interest level for the kind of research that fascinates me.  They very well might read the signs plastered all over the building about all the healthy calcium and protein and figure that this is not only tasty, but a really wholesome snack.  Let’s stop by every week!  Marketing occasional indulgences with misleading buzzword lines like, “our frozen yogurt contains live and active cultures that promote a healthy lifestyle” is intellectually dishonest and potentially harmful an insane degree.

Processed foods like cereal and granola are hugely guilty of this kind of marketing bait and switch as well, focusing all the words on their packaging on the few vitamins and minerals that were squeezed into a product and relegating the volumes of salt, sugar and fat to a teeny tiny font size on the back.

Refined sugar is delicious and I love desserts that feature it.  I don’t buy into the food hysteria that classifies it as an addictive like crack, cancer-causing, instant obesity inducing substance.  It takes time and repeated, regular indulgence to become overweight – which means that having a froyo when a friend visits or when you’re on vacation (or just because it’s been months and you really want one) is totally fine.  I want delicious treats to be an occasional part of my diet without obsessing over them or lying to myself and classifying them as health food so that I can overindulge on a regular basis.  You can lie to your brain all you want, but your body isn’t going to buy it.

A decadent frozen yogurt bar is good for the soul.  And that's all it has to be.

Delicious? Absolutely! Health food? Absolutely not.

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