By Rosemary Marchese
Physiotherapist and mum of 3 fit kids
‘Health Food’ Aisle – What a load of crap
What to watch for as the kids head back to school
I’ve always wondered why the ‘Health Food’ aisle in the supermarket is not the fruit and vegetable aisle. But even that is being bombarded with lamingtons and the like at my local supermarket. So, the ‘Health Food’ aisle. You know the one. The one that has all those packages claiming ‘all natural’, ‘gluten free’ and ‘organic’. It’s easy to spot and I can imagine the manufacturers just ‘love’ having their items placed there. I’d prefer it didn’t exist.
While the supermarkets don’t always promote it as the ‘Health Food’ aisle I know a lot of mums that would agree that there is that underlying perception that that particular aisle must be better for you, and if you have kids you better stay out of the soft drink and chips aisle and head down the fake health food lane.
Let’s cut the crap
With over 30 000 products in some of these supermarkets, and less and less time available to busy mums (yes, and dads) to think twice while they are shopping, a lot of these products end up in our trolleys on a whim.
Firstly, let me put it out there that I am not saying that every product in that aisle should be avoided. But there is something to be said to putting up your guard before you put any product in your shopping trolley. Think about it, why is there no broccoli in the ‘Health Food’ aisle?
So, as the kids head back to school for yet another year of school lunches, it’s a great time to think twice. Fresh is always best, in my opinion, but sure there are times where something quick and easy from a packet can be a real time saver. So, let’s take a closer look.
The white lies to look out for
I am calling these white lies, because although often ‘technically’ true, I think they are misleading us to thinking they are healthy.
- Gluten free. Quite possibly one of the biggest hoaxes of this century I am really wary of ‘gluten-free’. This is not an attack on those with coeliac disease or a true gluten intolerance (who therefore have the inability to cope with gluten) so let’s leave that discussion for another day. But ‘gluten-free’ is not synonymous with ‘healthy’. Often the alternatives in that food is just as bad, if not worse, for you than the gluten itself. Look out for hydrogenated palm oils and canola oils in these foods for just one little tips. These oils are coming up more and more in cancer research studies. A ‘gluten-free’ cookie from the shelf is still a cookie. Crap is crap if you ask me.
- Organic junk food. Again, junk food is junk food. I’m always wary when biscuit companies claim that they made their ingredients with ‘organic flour’ or the like. Check the ingredients. What else is there? Crappy, processed oils? Loads of sugar? Probably.
- Fat-free. I think a lot of us have moved passed the ‘fat-free’ lie of the last few decades but manufacturers do continue to pull this one out often for good advertising measure. It still sells! When fat is removed, the manufacturers have replaced it with something else, often loads of sugar and lots of other nasty surprises.
- Sugar free. Sugar free often means ‘zero calories’. In goes the artificial sweeteners and you can say hello to more migraines, changes in your gut microbes and a huge rise in sugar cravings.
- Protein bars. Here’s another killer in the weight loss and health department. Don’t get me wrong, not all protein bars are bad, but so many of them are bio-engineered with sugar, unhealthy fats and chemicals that I just can’t fathom consuming them.
- Dried fruit. So those banana or apricot slices look yummy and must be healthy, right? Nothing is as good as the real thing. The dried stuff can be filled with sugar and often misses the water that exists in real fruit. Plus, there is often a ‘glaze’ of oil on top to make it look nicer. Seriously? Not good.
- Granola. Wow, this stuff is considered ‘healthy’ by so many people because it contains oats, which is so well known for providing improved bowel health. What ‘they’ don’t tell you is what happened to the oats before they got there. Don’t kid yourself to thinking they were not processed before they got to your bowl.
- Vege chips. Packed with sugar and crappy oils in so many instances you may be left wondering if the traditional chip is actually doing less harm (plus you are not kidding yourself to thinking they are healthy).
- Flavoured yoghurt. Okay, this is in the fridge section but I thought this one was worth adding in. These are often filled with highly processed fruit and sugar. Go for Greek or plain yoghurt and add your own fruit.
Tricks to look out for:
So, when shopping here are some ‘words’ used to hide the lies that I watch out for:
- ‘Enriched’. In other words, they have removed something and added some sort of crap back in.
- ‘Fat-free’. Fat is not the enemy. Without the fat there is something else adding the taste. These foods are often high in something else, whether it is artificial sweeteners, sodium or sugar, to name a few.
- ‘Made with wholegrain’ or ‘Made with real fruit’. Really, so that fruit bar is the same as eating the whole fruit? Don’t kid yourself. Often the ‘made with’ part is a legal way of the manufacturer saying that they added a little of the ‘healthier’ ingredient to hid the other crap in the food.
- ‘All natural’. This can literally mean anything made from the earth. Nothing clear about that!
Rose 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 www.thefitbusymum.com.au