Processed Food Jumping on the Bandwagon?

It's very difficult to know what the right things are to eat.  It's not any easier when all around us are advertisements, slogans, and claims on and about packaged foods.  Everywhere you look these days among packaged food -- particularly high-carbohydrate packaged food such as cereal, snack bars and the like -- you see protein being advertised as the next great food benefit.  What's with this new trend?  Is this an earnest effort by these food companies to improve our nutrition?

I don't want to claim that these companies are out to harm us, they're not, but their objectives are exactly what they are required to do to benefit their shareholders.  They're out to sell more product.  This is not necessarily the same as your objective to eat healthier food.

I think these big food companies are seeing a trend toward paleo, primal, low carb diets and they want to jump on the bandwagon.  But they've got a problem.  If they were really to embrace this approach, they would develop food that was low in carbohydrate and not lower in fat, but not necessarily higher in protein.  If they did that, they'd do two things which aren't in line with their objective to sell more product.

For one, they would scare a large part of their customer base away.  That base is made up of average Americans who are convinced, from years of the low fat mantra, that fat is to be avoided at all cost.  They avoid any mention about reduced carbohydrates, whether or not their new products have reduced carbohydrates or not.  If they mentioned reduced carbohydrate, they fear they would sound like they were suggesting "healthy whole grains" should be avoided.  The only safe thing they can say is that they have more protein.

Another likely reason is fear of stirring the wrath of experts in conventional nutrition who would disparage food that is higher in fat or lower in healthy whole grains.

To those who are trying to understand what to eat and what's good for them, particularly those who are trying to follow a low carbohydrate approach, be cautious about buying into the message from these processed food manufacturers.  High protein is not necessarily the way to go.  You probably are getting enough protein and having more is not going to help you reach your goals.

The list of new Protein-enhanced processed foods I found on a walk through the grocery store;

  • Special K Protein Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crunch Cereal
  • Special K Protein Chocolatey Peanut Butter Granola Snack Bar
  • Special K Dark Chocolate Granola Snack Bar
  • Quaker Select Starts Protein Cranberry Almond Instant Oatmeal
  • Quaker Select Starts Banana Nut Instant Oatmeal
  • Fairlife reduced fat ultra-filtered milk.  (The issues with this product go far beyond the focus on 50% more protein.  The shear idea that milk itself needs to improved is hard to believe.  See this blog post for more at PrimalPastures.com)
  • Rockin' Refuel protein fortified, low fat milk
  • Weightwatchers Frosted Shredded Wheat with Protein
  • Fiber One Coconut Almond Chewy Bars with Protein
  • Nature Valley Mixed Berry Protein Greek Yogurt  Chewy Bar with Naturally Flavored Greek Yogurt Coating
  • Nature Valley Strawberry Greek Yogurt Protein Chewy Bar with Naturally Flavored Greek Yogurt Coating
  • Fiber One Cranberry Almond Protein Cereal
  • Fiber One Maple Brown Sugar Protein Cereal
  • Special K Protein Cereal  (One listing 10g of protein the other with 14g including milk.  Other than that I see no difference -- could this be an experiment on their part?)
  • Cheerios Cinnamon Almond Protein Cereal
  • Cheerios Oats and Honey Protein Cereal

It's interesting that these protein-enhanced packaged foods are almost all foods that are normally high in carbohydrate.  (Cereal, snack bars, etc.)  There's also no mention of them having lower carbohydrate since I suspect they don't.

 

 

 

When do I buy organic?

As I try to eat right, one of the questions that comes up; "Shouldn't I always buy and eat organic?"  Beyond my admonition to try not to be so perfect that you stress out or abandon the good in search of the perfect, there are still good reasons to sometimes buy organic, and sometimes just not worry about it.

There are a number of advantages touted for organic products.   Some of these I very much understand and take advantage of, some of them are being questioned in recent studies, and some of them I don't much worry about.

Organic Plants Have More Nutrients

I think the jury's out on this one.  In principle, growing food organically means the farm can't depend on chemicals and things to keep the plant healthy.  This would imply that the nutrients to feed the plants would have to come from the soil, implying that the soil may need to be more rich than the soil where non-organic plants are grown.  Studies on the subject seem to be split and probably depend mostly on who sponsored them.

Bottom line: I think this is probably true but probably not enough to go too far out of my way to buy organic.

Organic plants and animals
expose you to fewer chemicals

This is my primary reason to buy organic when I do.  I use a relatively simple rule of thumb.  If it is a food you are consuming the outside parts of, the parts that are exposed to most of the chemicals in question, then I try to buy organic.  If not, then I don't feel I have to go out of my way to buy organic.  For example, avocados -- I don't need to buy organic since I don't eat the skin.  Another example, leaf lettuce -- I try to buy organic since the leaves are exposed to all the potentially toxic chemicals.

A good website for ideas on what you should and should not buy organic for this reason is ewg.org  On the site they highlight their "Dirty Dozen" (the foods from which you will have the most exposure to chemicals and the ones you should buy organic) and their "Clean 15" (the foods that have the least exposure and the ones you probably don't have to worry about getting organic.)

Organic processed food

Using organic doesn't help you if it's highly processed food in the first place.  You should avoid highly processed food and eat "real" food.  Ignore the label "organic" on highly processed foods and avoid those foods altogether.

Not GMO

This is a tough one.  All else being equal, I would probably choose non-GMO.  I don't believe that GMO is inherently bad for us, just because it's GMO.  I'm not "scared" of it just because it's genetically modified.  We've been genetically modifying foods for 1,000s of years.  We used to (and still do) genetically modify crops by selectively breeding them to get the characteristics we want.  GMO isn't much different -- just a whole lot faster.  The biggest problem with that is that the objective of the modifications is all about productivity, resistance to spoilage, palatability, etc.  Health doesn't likely play a big role.  That means these crops are bed to be ultra sweet, palatable, etc. and are likely less heathy for us.  But that's already happened, long before GMO was an acronym.  Read the book Wheat Belly to see the effect this had on the modern wheat we eat and what it does to us.  (You can buy at at the sponsored link to the right and help to support this site.)

My biggest problem with GMOs is the way the big companies such as Monsanto are treating local farmers, suing them because their crops end up containing genetic material that is patented (something I think is totally crazy to begin with.)  The contamination of those crops is likely due to natural processes like wind driving pollination from neighboring GMO crops.

I've certainly not covered every possible reason to buy organic food, but if all else is equal, I would definitely choose organic.  If it's much more expensive or hard to find, and it's not one that I think would have a strong effect on health, I don't go too far out of my way.

Very short story on how I eat LCHF

I thought I would see how succinctly I could describe what this Low Carb, High Fat (LCHF) diet is, (at least the way I do it) to those who may be unfamiliar.  Here goes.

FoodonForks.jpg

I eat virtually no sugar.  (Including sodas, sugar in other drinks, deserts, etc.)

I eat virtually no grains.  (Including breads, pasta, cereal, rice, etc.)

I eat virtually no starchy vegetables. (Potatoes, etc)

I eat little or no sweet fruits. (Citrus, ripe bananas, apples, etc)

I eat a "normal" amount of protein, about 100 gms./day  (Beef, pork, chicken, fish)

I eat fat, about 70-80% of calories. (Mostly saturated and monounsaturated)

I eat eggs. (About 1-1/2 dozen a week.)

I eat full-fat dairy. (Butter, full-fat cream, hard cheeses)

I eat some nuts. (Mainly macadamia, but also some almonds, Brazil nuts, pistachios, cashews)

I eat some less-sweet fruits. (Blueberries, strawberries)

I eat very dark chocolate (usually greater than 85% cocoa)

I strive for quality food sources. (Dairy and beef from Grass fed cows, eggs and meat from pastured chickens)

I eat very little packaged or junk food, or food with labels containing more than 2 or 3 recognizable ingredients.

I never count calories.

I don't worry about getting it all perfect.

I welcome your feedback!