Self Portrait with Halo

Three Slightly Absurd and Supposedly Healthy Food Products

We confess. When it comes to food product innovations and trends, we’re a little slow. Stuff like pancakes and sausage on a stick just leaves us cold. That one never caught fire, and they never called it healthy. (Thank goodness.) But here are three supposedly healthy food products that are getting some traction. Magical healthy food marketing is the only reason we can see for them to thrive.

Coconut Oil and Coconut Water

Weight management expert and dietitian Susan Burke March reports that she encounters people swallowing tablespoonfuls of coconut oil. Why? Because, they say, “it’s good for you.” They read it on social media or hear it from a celebrity.

The American Heart Association begs to differ. Their recent scientific advisory pointed out that controlled trials show it will raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. And then there’s the matter of calories. It’s pure fat, so swallowing it by the tablespoon can add up to some significant weight gains over time. One tablespoon is 117 calories.

Coconut water is coming along for a ride on the healthy halo. It doesn’t offer much over plain water. You get sugar, potassium, a little sodium, and a few other minerals. It has less sugar than Gatorade, but it can still add up. It’s got a halo, but no health miracles. And naturally, you’ll pay a premium price for it.

Healthy Energy Bars

These are candy bars you can feel good about. Some of them, like the Kind Bars, work really hard to prove that they’ve earned their halo. But at the end of the day, they’re just offering something sweet and satisfying with a dose of sugar and maybe some protein. And they’re convenient. But the intimation of health benefits is just a tool for rationalizing an extra snack.

Veggie Chips and Pasta

Veggie Pasta Chips, Spinach Broccoli KaleFrench fries are bad, right? Pasta is getting a bad rap these days, too. And veggies are good. So, naturally we have shelves full of veggie chips and veggie pastas. And now we even have veggie pasta chips! Spinach, broccoli, kale, and a little bit of Italy – all in a bag of chips.

But this hardly qualifies as a healthy Mediterranean diet.

The trouble is that you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re eating your vegetables when you eat veggie chips and pasta. What you’re eating is a processed food with some veggie powder and flavor added. And by the way, a serving of veggie chips generally has as much fat and as many calories as a serving of fries.

So if you like these supposedly healthy food products, enjoy them. But if you’re eating them for a health benefit, think it over. Those health claims have more to do with marketing puffery than science.

Click here for more on health claims for food marketing and here for more on coconut oil.

Self Portrait with Halo, painting by Paul Gauguin / WikiArt

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September 30, 2017

2 Responses to “Three Slightly Absurd and Supposedly Healthy Food Products”

  1. September 30, 2017 at 11:17 am, Al Lewis said:

    If you want a little rather disturbing trivia about energy vars, visir its right on the home page. You’ll never eat another mass market energy bar again.

    • September 30, 2017 at 1:20 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Al. Right on the mark, as usual.