02/23/08 — Food marketers say the darndest things

It’s Saturday, which means I’m looking @grocery coupons and flyers to see what’s on sale. The more I look, the angrier I get. In the wake of massive ground beef and spinach recalls as well as an epidemic of obesity, food marketers are trying to put a spin for their clients: the concept that the food their clients make is healthy, and getting healthier. Maybe it’s because I worked in marketing for years, but what a load of crap! Here are some examples that really piss me off:

  • 100-calorie packs – these are mostly smaller versions of things like cookies, chips, muffins, and other empty calories. They may be smaller, but it’s still junk food. Plus, since the product is smaller, that means more packaging, which means more expensive and moving global warming forward from all of that plastic wrap;
  • Soup w/”healthy” in the title and still a lot of salt – I fell for this crap yesterday @lunch. Those little soups sure are convenient; they only take a couple of minutes to heat up in the microwave. What’s insidiuous about them is that those little packages still have 2 servings according to the label – does anyone really split those soups with anyone? Of course not. So the “low sodium” version of these soups, multiplied by two servings, means almost 1000 mg of sodium. Do you call that healthy?
  • Whole-grain bait and switch – Sure, whole grains are great and good for you. What you don’t hear is that whole grains have more calories than the non-whole grain versions of the same thing. Now has anyone adjusted their portion sizes to account for this? Probably not. Moreover, a lot of things advertised as “whole-grain goodness” or whatever aren’t really whole-grain. You really have to stay on top of labels in this case. The general rule is things that truly are whole-grain have 2g of fiber for every 100 calories.
  • What’s up w/the yogurts with added nutrients – plain yogurt is a beautiful, healthy thing (see previous rant). You can add fruit, or honey, or cereal to it, and you have a nice snack or breakfast. I don’t see a need for adding a bunch of sugar, probiotics (yogurt has plenty on its own) or whatever, packaging it in a bunch on nonrecyclable little containers (global warming, anyone?), sticking a “healthy” label on it, and putting it @eye level on grocery shelves.

I was @the grocery store yesterday for office pantry supplies and just about everything I bought was not only on the outer perimeter of the store, but on the very top or the bottom shelf – the plain store-brand yogurt and granola, the Wasa crispbreads, the green tea – everything. Trying to stay healthy in this culture is like an underwater scavenger hunt.