Food labels can be as fattening as their ingredients if you’re not viewing them with a critical eye. It’s not always what they’re telling you, but more so what they’re not.
Imagine this scenario:
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Food label: Carrots! now fat free!
Consumer: “Whoa! How about that! I’ll buy three bags!”
Food industry executives: “Cha-ching!”
Food labels: can you trust them?
Hmm, since when did carrots ever have fat in them? The absurdity of the above hypothetical scenario illustrates my view of the proverbial carnival shell game played by food companies, and the carnival goers (consumers) who so willingly continue to blindly throw good money after bad hoping that one of those shells (food labels) contains the magic health bullet.
Are low-carb beers a healthier alternative?
The idea for this article popped into my head when I saw an advertisement for “low-carb” beer. It got me thinking about the lengths to which food and beverage companies will go to cook up clever marketing campaigns – consumer health be damned.
Though I’ve been known to imbibe a beer or six from time to time, the idea that it’s “low-carb” is completely off-base and doesn’t take into account the fact that if you drink too much of it on a regular basis, you’re going to get fat.
Even if food chemists sliced off a gram or two of carbohydrate from its “high-carb” cousin, alcohol still provides approximately 7 calories (~29 kJ) per gram. A safe energy estimate for low-carb beer is somewhere around 100 calories and isn’t much different from a regular “high-carb” beer.
Slug down a six pack a day, and when the smoke clears and the dust settles (or the room stops spinning), you’re still on a collision course for a “low-carb” keg around your gut.
The entire marketing campaign is based upon the misguided notion that “carbs make me fat.” And well, perhaps this is “true” in the minds of obese food marketing executives sitting high atop their ivory towers crafting the next public hoodwinking. After all, it’s not a lie if you believe it yourself.
It’s easier to overeat refined foods
As I mentioned in a previous post regarding media health reporting, a junk food diet high in added refined sugar (soda, chips, candy bars) passes through your stomach more quickly than nutrient dense foods and therefore leaves you feeling hungrier sooner and more likely to consume excess calories.
End result: you get fat. No surprise, just basic laws of thermodynamics at work.
Unfortunately, with the help of the food industry and the anti-sugar brigade, the general public has been led to think carbohydrates are evil metabolic villains poisoning our bodies with absolutely no consideration for the type of carbohydrate (complex, low-glycemic index) or how it fits into an overall balanced diet. Food labels pander to this line of thinking by highlighting their products are “low-carb” or “low-sugar.”
Following on from above, years ago, government health agencies shouted out from the bell tower that we needed to “eat less fat” and we’d all lose weight. Only problem is, what they intended and what people actually heard were two different messages.
People thought they were clever and took the message to the extreme, “well if I don’t eat any fat, then I can’t get fat.”
Food industry: give the people what they think they want
Food products (and food labels) were overhauled, with the fat content drastically reduced but replaced with sweeteners (refined sugar, etc). People carried on wolfing down “low-fat” foods but, not so surprisingly, waistlines around the world continued to expand.
And the people revolted, “Hey, big bad evil government health agencies, what gives?! I’ve been doing what your stupid sugar industry shill dietitians and doctors told me and my ass is still wider than an axe handle!”
The astutely listening food industry seized the moment and jumped to the podium, “Yes townspeople, we hear you loud and clear! We shall deliver you from the evils perpetrated upon you by the know-nothing establishment! Carbs HAVE made you fat! Carbs are poison! We shall deliver unto you low-carb versions of all your favourite foods sure to warm the cockles of your stomachs!”
The low-carb hysteria is still running strong but global obesity rates are continuing to rise.
Quick-fixes over healthy lifestyle foundations
As I take a step back and use my eye-o-meter to assess the overall health landscape, I believe the public is also partially complicit in the growing obesity problem. Food industry executives, quack diet book authors, and self-proclaimed fitness gurus hawking infomercial exercise gimmicks have all capitalised on public distrust of the so-called establishment and the desire for quick-fix health solutions, none of which have made one iota of difference to the abysmal state of public health.
You want the secret? It’s right here in my Permanent Fat Loss Principles article, but the secret is really no secret. We’ve known it all along.
You don’t have to be a nutritional biochemist to eat healthy. Make small changes you can live with and stick with it for the long-haul. Ditch the low-carb beer, soda, candy, chips, and all kinds of refined crap food.
Exercise? While going to the gym is a step in the right direction, there’s evidence that prolonged sitting (i.e., daily desk job) can “undo” all your hard work and still leave you at risk for health problems. Ever heard of a standing workstation? Spend more time on your feet “wasting energy” throughout the day (i.e., standing workstation) and you can expect a more svelte you.
So next time you see a food label trumpeting “chocolate éclairs now low in fat,” always read the fine print…..serving size: 10 milligrams!