Monday, September 7, 2009

Smart Choices ~ Dumb Food ~ DUH?

When Leah and I first decided that we'd like to do a radio program geared towards moms, our main goal was
to educate mothers on health, fitness, and nutrition in order to affect the lives of their children. With childhood obesity on the rise and hitting epidemic proportions, the quality of life for millions of Americans is headed into the crapper. We wanted to bring sound nutritional advice to Moms and teach them that they DO have control over what foods they offer their children and that they DO have influence over the eating habits their children will develop. By educating children at an early age we give them the tools they need to navigate the crap infested world they will experience as they grow older and head out into the world.

I'm a little fired up this morning so you'll have to excuse me just a bit. I have been a bit "head down" with work lately so when I saw this article in the New York Times Business section last night I just about spit my water across the screen. Apparently we are going to be seeing a green check mark indicating that such foods as Froot Loops are a "better for you food".

I've got about four posts going on in my head right now so I'll just break it down to this: a food that is 44% sugar is NOT a "better for you food". Encouraging people to buy processed foods because they have been fortified is like telling me to eat horse shit because you added enough vitamins and minerals to reach 50% of the recommended daily amount (RDA).

What really ticks me off is that the knowledgeable folks behind this effort are defending it. This is an excerpt from the NY Times article I referenced previously.

Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University (note to self do NOT send my child to Tufts University), said the program’s criteria were based on government dietary guidelines and widely accepted nutritional standards. (hmm I wasn't aware that those guidelines promoted consumption of processed foods)

She said the program was also influenced by research into consumer behavior. That research showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them. (So, what? Tell them what they want to hear? Well that makes sense. "That bowl of Froot Loops is 44% sugar but no worries, you are getting plenty of vitamins and minerals so just keep spooning that crap into your trap and put it out of your mind." As long as we feel good. I get it!)

“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’ ” Dr. Kennedy said. “Consumers are smart enough (then why do we need a system at all?) to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product. They want to have a choice. They don’t want to be told ‘You must do this.’ ”

This may not be an industry led initiative however, it is an industry backed program, paid for by industry. I don't begrudge these companies manufacturing their foods, I'm a capitalist at heart. I don't even care if people choose to eat their food. I do care that they are misleading people who are otherwise uneducated about nutrition. Let's take a look at the board of directors representing industry (these are the companies participating in the smart choices program - which I believe means that they have paid for the program and that you won't see these checks on any other brand foods):

Dr. Celeste Clark
Battle Creek, MI

Dr. Susan Crockett
General Mills
Minneapolis, MN

Mr. Chris Doherty
Kraft Foods North America
Northfield, IL

Ms. Nancy Schnell
Unilever U.S.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ

This whole program is a joke and the fact that not one of the companies involved saw it is frightening. What concerns me more is that the board of directors representing non-industry, seemingly well educated members of highly reputable institutions, are comfortable putting their names on this program.

Dr. Dennis Bier
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX

Dr. Mary Hager
American Dietetic Association
Washington, DC

Dr. Richard Kahn
American Diabetes Association
Alexandria, VA

Dr. Eileen Kennedy
Tufts University
Boston, MA

I love food, I'm not a freak about every little thing I put in my body. In fact, I eat light mayo which is also a "smart choice" (along with the full fat kind) and I'd probably eat full fat mayo if it didn't always end up as a big bubble on my ass. What you put in your mouth is up to you and I fully support your right to choose.

MomActive's goal is to EDUCATE so that when your kids drink milk they know that the calcium will help them grow strong bones and teeth, and guess what else has calcium? Broccoli! We'd like our listeners to teach their children to make a connection between the food they eat and the resulting benefit (or detriment!) to their bodies. Our hope is that with this knowledge they will then CHOOSE to consume foods that benefit their health.... and while the new Froot Loops may contain a bit more fiber and are fortified, those facts do not erase the fact that they are 44% sugar and contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil which all of my readers have been educated to know is a trans fat.

*Don't forget to enter our giveaway to win a free PUR Flavor Choice water filtration pitcher!

***This is a post I wrote this weekend for - This topic has me all riled up and I'll be writing about it again this week. I will also be discussing this Tuesday September 7th at 10am CMT on @sugarjones Blog Talk Radio Show, The Sugar Buzz***


6 Responses to "Smart Choices ~ Dumb Food ~ DUH?"
  1. AiringMyLaundry said...
    September 7, 2009 at 8:56 PM

    This is great.

    And I agree, educating is important. My son is 7 and he's all, "Will this make me healthy?" before he eats.

  2. Shady Lady said...
    September 7, 2009 at 10:47 PM

    Holy crap! What are they thinking?! And I was wondering, how are they going to get those happy little check marks on the lettuce, chard, broccoli and brussel sprouts?

  3. Jennifer said...
    September 7, 2009 at 11:04 PM

    Wow. I literally am speechless. We are going down a shame spiral. Ugh.

  4. Randi Troxell said...
    September 8, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    man... this brings it all home... and makes me see where WE have to be the ones to make decisions... and NOT other ppl...

  5. Shady Lady said...
    September 8, 2009 at 7:47 AM

    If people really want to make Smart Choices, read Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food".

  6. Heatherlyn said...
    September 8, 2009 at 9:16 AM

    Yet another example of why I do not trust the media. It is bought and sold.

    Healthy food comes from what grows in the ground. The closer to the ground, the better it is for your body. At least, that's what makes sense to me. Fruit loops are yummy, fill you up, and give you calories, but they are by far quite possibly only healthier than twinkies.


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