Friday, July 11, 2008

All-Natural Doesn't Mean All-Healthy

Not only is Snapple “made from the best stuff on earth,” it’s “all natural.”

But dog crap is also all natural; would you eat that?

Why let the truth get in the way of a successful marketing campaign? I’m amazed how many food items laden with high fructose corn syrup, salt, hydrogenated oils and other processed foodstuffs are accepted as healthy because they have been marketed as such.

The next time you are in the supermarket, take a closer look at granola bars, a supposed healthy snack. A box of Nature Valley granola bars couldn’t be more eye-pleasing. It’s awash in a pretty background color (corresponding to the flavor), and pictures a sun-drenched pastoral landscape.

There are also the catch phrases “100% Natural” and “Excellent Source of Whole Grain,” which are true but misleading. There’s also an “Official Natural Energy Bar of the PGA Tour” endorsement, which must explain why Tiger won the U.S. Open on a fractured tibia and damaged anterior cruciate ligament. Rocco should have passed on that Ring Ding.

What are the ingredients of Nature Valley’s Roasted Almond Crunchy Granola Bars? The bars are “whole grain rolled oats, sugar, canola oil, crisp rice with soy protein (rice flour, soy protein concentrate, sugar, malt, salt), almond pieces, brown sugar syrup, salt, soy lecithin, baking soda, natural flavor, peanut flour, pecan flour.” With the exception of the almonds, everything after whole grain rolled oats is either refined and/or processed. Bottom line, this so-called healthy snack should be in the candy aisle.

My message is simple: Don’t blindly believe the big food companies and their marketing campaigns. Take your health into your own hands by reading ingredient lists and making common sense decisions about what you and your family consume. Stick to real food. It doesn’t take a nutritionist to conclude that plain yogurt, fresh fruit and real oatmeal are better alternatives to the processed items being (literally) forced down our throats.

By the way, the photo shows an actual display in the window of a Manhattan supermarket.

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