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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What is the meaning of 'healthy'?

Uncanny timing for this post.  On the heels of a class action suit filed against General Mills and its Fruit Roll-Ups for misleading consumers that its products are healthy, when in fact they are not.  http://www.topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/1419-general-mills-fruit-snack-class-action-lawsuit
General Mills is not the only company guilty of doing this. Marketing departments everywhere are trying harder and harder to appeal to health conscious consumers as well as those just trying to make small improvements in their dietary habits.  What is even more unfortunate is that some professionals (dietitians) that Americans look to for guidance are just as misleading.

Merriam -Webster defines healthy as: conducive to health. Citing such synonyms as  able-bodied, bouncing, fit, hale, hearty,robust, sound, well, well-conditioned, whole, wholesome.  Not a bad place to start.  They go on to define heart healthy as conducive to a healthy heart and circulatory system.  Ok, I'll buy that.  But what about everyone else? What is their definition of healthy?  This is something that confuses most Americans each and every day. If eggs, oatmeal, almonds, berries, chicken and  salmon are all deemed healthy--even heart healthy then eating them would be a good thing, right? Uhhh, no.  Not always.
What?? You heard me..NO! You can't just take something that is healthy and do whatever you want to it and say it is STILL healthy.  Some of you are probably laughing right now thinking, well duuuhhh, of course. But then WHY, WHY, WHY do people do it every day and no one says anything? Each and every day you are presented with things that appear to be healthy and simply ARE NOT.  Oatmeal from Mc Donald's (or even Starbucks), yogurt with 'real fruit', trail mix or an Egg Mc Muffin.  Yes, I did say Egg McMuffin. That's right.  Apparently some dietitians actually consider it a healthy option. Wholly cow, what was the definition of healthy again????  Looking at an online 'resource' healthydinigfinder.com  http://www.healthydiningfinder.com/ you will actually learn that healthy has a meaning completely different than the Merriam-webster version.  Here is what they say: "The dietitian-approved Healthy Dining choices emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and unsaturated fats and meet calorie, fat and saturated fat criteria. A new Sodium Savvy platform helps consumers find restaurant meals with less than 750 mg. of sodium." They emphasize those things, but don't necessarily have them...ohhh and golly gee- less than 750mg of sodium...half of my sodium intake in just one meal..THANKS!  
So yes, you DO need to pay attention to what you are eating not just what some pretty, colorful package says or some commercial with an unbelievably catchy song, or even a fun website that says it is dietician approved.  You need to know what it started out as and what happened to it along the way; what was added and what was taken away.  Then, regardless of the marketing associated with the item you will KNOW if it is healthy or not. Simple enough?


Let's look back on some of the choices purported as 'healthy options' according to www.healthydiningfinder.com. First up, McDonald's Egg McMuffin.  (Thankfully McDonald's lists the nutritional information as well as ingredients for their items online- which is more than I can say for WeightWatchers http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/ingredientslist.pdf) Ingredients are listed as: english muffin, egg, pasteurized process American cheese, Canadian style bacon, liquid margarine.  Ok, never mind the fact that I would dump the english muffin, this choice may not seem too bad to some folks.  I mean after all, it DOES list egg, right? Well, let's look a bit closer.  Scrolling down the page, after all the listings of its breakfast items 'eggs' are listed.  Hmmm, wonder what's in there..eggs, I hope.  Let's see....USDA Grade A eggs, soy lecithin (release agent). Prepared with liquid margarine: liquid soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavors, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, bets carotene (color).  While we're at it, why don't we look at the english muffin too. Those ingredients are listed as: enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, wheat gluten, soybean oil and/or canola oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, citric acid, calcium citrate, yellow corn flour, corn meal, rice flour, barley flour, rice malt, artificial flavors, natural flavors (botanical source), dough conditioners (ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, datem, tricalcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, calcium peroxide), calcium propionate and potassium sorbate (preservatives) soy lecithin. Prepared with liquid margarine: liquid soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavors, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, bets carotene (color).  


Oh heck, while we're at it we'll finish it off with the Canadian Style Bacon and Pasturized process American cheese..guess we don't really need to look at the liquid margarine since THAT is already incorporated into every other item in the sandwich! Canadian Style bacon: pork, water, sugar, salt, sodium lactate, sodium phosphate, natural flavor (vegetable), sodium diacetate and sodium nitrite (preservatives). Pasteurized process American cheese: milk, water, milk fat, cheese culture, sodium citrate, salt, citric acid, scorbic acid (preservative), sodium phosphate, artificial color, lactic acid, acetic acid, enzymes, soy lecithin (added for slice separation). 
Ok, so I have a question to the dietician that 'approved' this as a healthy option--what on EARTH is your definition of healthy???? I mean, really...hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, salt, soy, soy, soy, PRESERVATIVES?? Yeah, that is right in line with the standards they mentioned: emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and unsaturated fats and meet calorie, fat and saturated fat criteria.Wow, that is all I can say...wow.


I do find it interesting that Mc Donald's uses different eggs for different items.  For instance the biscuit items are listed as having a 'folded egg'.  This 'folded egg' has ingredients listed as: pasteurized whole egg (DOES NOT LIST GRADE OF EGG), food starch-modified, soybean oil, natural flavors (botanical), sodium acid pyrophosphate, carrageenan, flavor enhancer [salt, maltodextrin, natural flavor(plant source), spices, herb, turmeric (color)], monosodium phosphate, citric acid, soy lecithin (release agent), prepared with liquid margarine. All eggs are NOT created equal.  Not too sure about you, but if i cooked an egg at home, I'm pretty sure the ingredients would be: egg.  That's it, just egg. 


I know, you're thinking "well, duuh, i didn't REALLY think that was a healthy option anyway." Just for you we'll look at something that most people WOULD assume would be a healthy option.  Grilled chicken.  McDonald's has done its part to stay afloat in this increasingly health conscious market so you have many choices with your grilled chicken there.  You can go with a salad, or sandwich or wrap.  Let's not split hairs with what you get with your grilled chicken, let's just look at the chicken for now. It is actually called New Grilled Chicken Fillet and is made of: chicken breast fillet with rib meat, water, seasoning (rice starch, salt, sugar, yeast extract, canola oil, onion powder, maltodextrin, chicken skin, paprika, flavor, sunflower oil, chicken, garlic powder, chicken fat, spices) sodium phosphates.
WOW! Why is there rice starch, sugar, yeast, oil, maltodextrin, CHICKEN SKIN, oil, chicken and chicken fat used to prepare the chicken???? Shouldn't chicken taste like chicken without ADDING chicken, chicken skin and chicken fat to it???? Or maybe it didn't taste like chicken after adding the sugar, salt, oil and maltodextrin so they had to add chicken back IN to the chicken.  Who knows.  All I know is that THAT is NOT chicken.  Not anymore.  


I can imagine this whole thing may be very confusing for some.  I mean after all there are isles upon isles of things in grocery stores jumping out promising to be healthy.  Made with "whole grains" or "real fruit" they say.  People buy into it forgetting the fact that the products don't even LOOK LIKE what they are supposedly made from. So when you DO have a product that looks like what it is made from (grilled chicken) it can be even harder for people to discern its health value. Read the ingredients people.  Not the pretty colored box front.  The actual ingredients.  They are usually small black letters..on the BACK of the package.  You may even need your glasses to read them. Put your glasses on, read the ingredients and keep the TRUE definition of healthy in mind. 


Stick with me, we'll get through this.





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