How food companies trick you into buying

RosemaryM 17By Rosemary Marchese

Physiotherapist and mum of 3 fit kids

Why you may be feeding your family crap because of clever marketing

Purchasing food for your family can be a minefield. ‘Gluten free’, ‘organic’, ‘wholegrain’ and ‘antioxidant’ are the buzzwords to name a few but they are giving some of us a false sense of health. And it’s not just on the ‘health foods’ as well. We are also getting deceived through the marketing of clearly junk food items. There’s often a little selling point that could tip consumers to purchasing. Check out a Peters Lemonade Icy Pole, for example, and you will see ‘99% fat free’. Well, it’s 100% free of grass too but that doesn’t mean I should eat it. Market a hamburger as ‘juicy’ and our brains will tell us that what we are eating is juicy. No one is going to market that the meat is packed full of antibiotics and hormones, are they?

Icy poles aren’t as harmless as some parents might think

Back to the icy poles for today’s example. What the company fails to point out more obviously is their ingredient list. No one says ‘99% fat free but come and get your vegetable gums and sugar!’ It’s just not done. Let’s take a look at these ingredients as one example: water, sugar, food acid (330), flavour and vegetable gum. Vegetable gum is a food thickener. When it’s added to a beverage the fluid is absorbed and thus it thickens. Vegetable gum is not the only thickening agent, but let’s look at this case for today. It will continue to hold water even during digestion and so the fluid available to the body may actually reduce. Interesting given that a few of the older generations once believed that lemonade would be good for diarrhoea. Doesn’t make sense to me anyway.

Now, for the food acid (330). This is citric acid and it is found naturally in fruit, vegetables household products. It’s commercially used as a preservative. Yep, preserving food can be a good thing so we don’t get immediately sick. You can find it in juices and in a variety of fruits and vegetables and there are no surprises that you can find it in citrus fruits. But the acid that’s commercially available is produced from sugar, not fruit. Are you ready to ask more questions now? At this point, I start to ask where the ‘lemon’ in ‘lemonade’ comes from…where is the real lemon? Nowhere I can see, but hey, as long as it’s 99% fat free I’m sure it won’t hit my health where it hurts. Think again.

The breakfast cereal health hazard

Anyone that knows me well knows that I am no real fan of breakfast cereals. Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few that some credible dietitians will vouch for, and some of the marketing gimmicks may have their merits. But most of the colourful boxes are filled with a rainbow of garbage so be warned. It’s that easy purchase isn’t it? Buy a box of cereal and the kids’ breakfast is sorted for the week. It’s time to stop. Just recently I blogged about the confusing messages being sent around in school canteens. But let’s think about what we are feeding our families before the kids even get to school.

Did you know?

  • Cereals are often packed with sugar
  • Cereals often offer little nutritional benefit
  • Many breakfast cereals are produced using chemicals that you would rather not know about.

So what’s the big deal about sugar?

So, what’s the big deal? Well, for starters we are now really getting more aware about the damage sugar is having on humans.

Basically, it:

  1. Creates liver fat
  2. Causes cell ageing
  3. Interferes with brain function that tells us how much to eat.

I’ve blogged about sugar before but here’s a little re-cap:

  • Some cans of tuna have sugar added
  • You could be eating 1.5 teaspoons of sugar for every dollop of mayonnaise
  • Baked beans could have about 4.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving
  • Flavoured milks are packed with sugar!
  • Sauces are full of sugar.

Remember, sugar is added to ‘food’ because it’s cheap. And when they (food manufacturers) add in sugar it usually means that they have removed something else. And that something else tends to be something pretty good, like olive oil. There’s a reason why you should ask for your dressing on the side of a salad…have you ever questioned what is in the dressing of a salad when you go out for dinner? Thinking a mushroom sauce with your steak, with a side order of salad with a lemon-lime and bitters is okay? The only thing you cannot guarantee is not full of sugar is the meat. By the time you are getting home from your dining experience you can bet that your body is starting to find some space for all that sugar, and it’s not in nice places for your health.

Excess sugar is stored as fat!

Food companies are great at getting you to purchase ‘food’ in boxes. But a lot of things in boxes need your careful eye on them. I’m not saying not to purchase. But if you don’t have the time on a particular day to stop and read the label, then don’t waste your cash just yet. Don’t be fooled by terms like:

  • 99% fat free
  • sugar free
  • all natural
  • preservative free.

While these facts are probably true you have to stop and wonder why this needs to be promoted in the first place. I always have to wonder what’s in the packet that means that the marketers have tried to distract me to their pledge for ‘organic’ or other whiz-bang words. The key message…don’t be fooled. If it’s in a packet and you don’t know the ingredients it’s probably not good for you. At the very least, find out for sure.

Here’s a little quiz for you to get you thinking about what you are consuming:

  1. What is the chemical ‘diethyl glycol’ used for? Well, it’s a cheap chemical used in the place of eggs, but it’s also used in anti-freeze and paint removers. Nice. Not.
  2. How about Aldehyde C-17? Aldehyde C-17 is flavouring for cherry ice cream. It is an inflammable liquid used in dyes, plastics, and rubber.
  3. And what about ‘Piperonal’? This great stuff is used in place of vanilla. No one really advertises that it’s also used as a lice killer.

Tip: If you can barely pronounce an ingredient, think again before consuming it!

make-it-count-smallRose is a Fit Busy Mum of 3 fit kids. She aims to empower mums who are time poor. She acknowledges that mums are ‘busy’ but tries to inspire them to regain their fitness through simple everyday habits that she promotes through her book ‘The Fit Busy Mum: Seven habits for success’. Visit

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