As someone who grew up in the 90s, I have likely consumed my body weight in sweets like Jolly Ranchers, Gushers, Nerds, Fruit Roll-Ups & of course Fruit By The Foot…which is why I was immediately interested to read about a recent lawsuit against General Mills. Given the increased interest in good health & well-being , it’s no surprise that General Mills decided to rethink their marketing and positioning strategies.
Although their claims were fully truthful, The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a class action lawsuit alleging that General Mills is guilty of misleading the public about the nutritional benefits of eating their fruit-flavored snacks. For a while, their packaging contained terms like “low fat”, “gluten free”, “low calorie”, “naturally flavored” and a “good source of Vitamin C”. In other words, the company tried to sugar-coat their products as being healthier and more wholesome than they actually are.
Unsurprisingly General Mills failed to provide further information about their products, such as they contain:
- Trans fat
- Added sugars
- Artificial food dyes
- Significant amounts of real, natural fruit
- Dietary fiber
Healthy or not, I have nothing against Fruit Roll-Ups (I will always have a soft spot for them). However I do have a problem with deceitful marketing strategies, especially when there are a huge number of individuals/parents who don’t know better. As a consumer, I am automatically attracted to foods which have catchphrases like “organic”, “gluten-free”, “vegan”, “and omega-3 fortified” on the label but it’s important to remember that these only paint part of the picture. In other words, these products may be doing more harm than good to our diet without us even realizing. For example:
1) Gluten-free: Individuals with gluten intolerances usually suffer digestive problems and cut out gluten sources such as wheat and grains. Although cutting out gluten has become popular with those wanting to lose weight, it’s essentially just another means of cutting calories. White gluten-free options may ease bloatedness, that doesn’t mean they are always healthier. For example, gluten-free cereals are often not iron-fortified, which is necessary for energy and helping your body transport oxygen and absorb nutrients. As for gluten-free biscuit and snacks, check out the sugar content!
2) Vegan: Rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains, vegan diets are naturally low in cholesterol, calories, and fat. As a result, they are not only healthy but can also help prevent obesity, diabetes some forms of cancer, and heart disease. However that’s not to say all vegan products are nutritionally sound. The other day I picked up a box of “Boca Original Vegan Burgers” and put it right back down after reading the list of ingredients:
Ingredients: WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEAT GLUTEN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, DRIED ONIONS, YEAST EXTRACT, SESAME OIL, HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE. CONTAINS: SOY, WHEAT, SESAME.
Personally, I’d rather eat a burger made purely from non-organic meat.
3) Low-calorie/ Fat-free/Light: At one stage or another, I am sure we have all bought into this craze. Especially when trying to lose weight, these are a great way to enjoy treats without bearing the caloric consequences…or so it seems. While naturally fat-free foods like egg-whites, fruits, vegetables, brown rice, and oats are all-round healthy, it’s unlikely the same can be said about ”fat-free” packaged goods. In order to reduce a product’s fat content while maintaining its flavor, chances are the manufacturer has pumped up the product’s overall sugar content…perhaps even more so than the full-fat variety. Just for an idea:
Carte D’Or Vanilla Light Ice Cream: Reconstituted Skimmed Milk, Water, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Oligofructose Syrup, Vegetable Fat, Whey Solids, Stabilisers (Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan), Emulsifier (Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids), Natural Vanilla Flavouring from Madagascar, Vanilla Bean Pieces, Colour (Mixed Carotenes).
Regular Vanilla Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream: Fresh Cream, Skimmed Milk, Sugar Solution (Sugar, Water), Egg Yolk, Natural Flavoring: Vanilla, Sugar
4) “Added vitamins and omega-3s”, save your money where possible! Most foods have vitamins, which is why it is a clever marketing ploy to highlight this fact. Breads, for instance, already contain omega-3s, so paying a buck or 2 extra isn’t necessarily worth it, unless you don’t eat fish, nuts, seeds or vegetables. In such cases, these kinds of products are only necessary if you have been diagnosed as deficient in a certain nutrient.
Nutritious or not, what was a favorite sweet/chocolate when you were growing up?