Remember your ‘low fat’ phase? Those years where everything from ghee, to full fat milk, to butter, to mustard oils , coconut oils were demonised so that refined ‘heart healthy’ vegetable oils with ‘no cholesterol’ could flood your super market and kitchen shelves. Then came the no sugar, no carb phase, the no gluten phase where all your hypermarkets stocked gluten free, low sugar or sugar free drinks, plant based cookies, and vegan items.
Every year brings a flurry of new food items, trendy jargons and claims of how you were doing everything wrong before and now you can right all the wrongs with the new products. There is a lot of research that is done , a lot of papers published glorifying the bright and shiny new trend of the day.
Alas, blurry definitions and vague usage can lead to confusion.
All this is food marketing.
What is food marketing you ask?
Food marketing is the branding and packaging of a new food item that is made up of usually unhealthy ingredients that are also cheaper for the manufacturer to obtain and cut costs to increase profit margins.
The sole objective of food marketing is to package the food item in the form of a ‘healthy’ trend or as a necessity and influence your food choices.
Companies are known to form lobbies and spend large amounts of money influencing research , sometimes completely molding untested or limited testing results to suit their intentions.
The goal of food marketing is to influence your food choices.
Companies wouldn’t spend billions of dollars a year on food marketing to you if they didn’t believe it had an impact. Unhealthy food and beverage marketing increases your preference and intake of energy-dense foods with little nutritional value.
Media advertising and on-package advertising affect not only the foods you ask for, but also which foods you are willing to eat.
There are different ways in which this is done.
- Roping in influencers . Remember ‘slim tea’ and ‘weight gain pills’?
- Roping in medical professionals to push the products onto their clients thereby creating a word of mouth promotion.
- Publishing misleading data on how the food item helps build good health, via renowned publishing houses.
Let’s bust some myths today.
Food Marketing Fact #1 : Vegetable oils are made of vegetables so they are cholesterol free.
Nutritionist’s Take : Refined vegetable oils are processed so much that their antioxidant capacities are severely reduced. They are mixed with other synthetic fats which further weaken their ability to be nutritionally beneficial for the human body.
Replace all your refined vegetable oils with clean oil/fats like ghee, unsalted butter made of organic A2 milk, coconut oil, peanut oil, mustard oil and olive oils. The virgin cold pressed versions are healthier as they are not processed and are organic.
Food Marketing Fact #2: Packaged breakfast cereals (ready-to-eat, instant cereals and oats) are good to start the day with.
Nutritionist’s Take : Anything that is instant or ready to eat in 5 minutes is not something that should be on your plate.
Take ramen or instant oats, corn flakes, instant muesli, ready to cook curries, powders, pastes , canned fruit and veggies for instance.
These are loaded with preservatives and high fructose , corn syrup , sodium and other minerals that spike your blood sugar levels and blood pressure levels instantly. Especially if you are consuming them in the morning.
So if you’re opting for instant oats instead of ramen in the morning, it is the same. You are not getting any nutritional benefit, the instant oats are processed so much that they lose most of their fibre and nutrients.
Instead, opt to stock your pantry with steel cut oats that you can soak in coconut milk or A2 milk overnight, top off with freshly cut, clean organic fruits, nuts and seeds or veggies in the morning for breakfast.
Food Marketing Fact #3: Diet Low fat Snacks are healthy/smart snacks
Nutritionist’s Take : Diet chivda, diet coke, diet namkeen, ‘baked chips’, low fat cookies, vrat snacks are as harmful for you as your deep fried chips, cookies and snacks.
This is because they may be fried in ‘heart healthy’ oils (NOT) , but they are made out of hydrogenated fats, refined carbs, high sugar ingredients that are re termed in various ways.
If you want to snack smart, opt for freshly squeezed juices, buttermilk, paneer pakodas fried in clean fats like ghee or unsalted butter or olive oil and mustard oil. Make sure the snacks you’re having are freshly made and served and are not fried in oils that are kept for over a day. Opt for unsalted and unsweetened nuts and seeds or fresh fruit and veggies with freshly made hummus instead of the ‘Diet Snacks’.
Food Marketing Fact # 4 : Flavoured Yogurts are yummy and healthy!
Nutritionist’s Take : Yogurt of course has lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria that makes your gut sing happily. Flavored yogurts however yummy they taste are harmful because they contain sugars that promote the growth of bad gut bacteria.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the bacteria everybody wants in their gut. But presence of high sugar in flavoured yogurt promotes unhealthy gut bacteria.
Have homemade curd or yogurt to boost your gut health and feel fulfilled. Do not add sugars to the curd.
Food Marketing Fact # 5: Peanut butter helps in weight loss
Nutritionist’s Take : Peanut butter is high fat and medium protein which help in boosting stamina and energy pre and post workout. It keeps you satiated longer and keeps the hunger pangs in check. However, there is no proof that peanut butter actually helps you lose weight.
Hummus is a good replacement for peanut butter. It has high protein as it is made of chickpeas and makes for a great post workout protein snack. Pair hummus or peanut butter with veggies like carrots and cucumbers instead of whole grain bread or chapatis for best results.
Food Marketing Fact # 6: Diet sodas are safe for health
Nutritionist’s Take : Sodas are never healthy. The high phosphorus content in the diet soda increases the load on the kidneys and artificial sweeteners in the drink really dont work because they are added in copious amounts to manage the strong nausea inducing effects of the soda. They still work towards increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Always opt for vegetable juices, sattu drinks, buttermilk, homemade milkshakes and herbal teas. They are caffeine free, quenching and very nourishing.
Food Marketing Fact #7. Nutritious bars or Meal replacement bars are healthier.
Nutritionist’s Take : Nutrition bars and meal replacement bars are loaded either with white sugar or sugar types such as fructose corn syrup, dextrose, molasses, glucose, sucrose and by different names. Food marketing fools you giving confusing name alternatives to refined sugar.
High refined sugar in these bars increases fat percentage as well as visceral fat . It also causes a sugar rush that leads to brain fogging and blood sugar spike in the body.
However, organic nutritious bars that use natural sweeteners like figs, jaggery, raw honey, pind khajur or raisins can be consumed in strict moderation.
Ofcourse, as nutritionists we do not recommend replacing your meal of dal chawal, roti and sabzi with any such bars.
Eat clean, eat fresh to stay healthy.