Pretentious Pseudo-healthy Products

Pretentious Pseudo-healthy Products

Do calories count anymore?  I wonder.  In my visits to the grocery store, at least once a week and often more frequently, I rarely see a product's being low in calories advertised as a plus.  What I do see is a lot of "no high fructose corn syrup," "non-GMO," "organic" and "gluten-free" plastered on packaging all up and down the aisle.  Of course, low calorie doesn't necessarily mean a product is healthy -- think "diet soda" -- but still.  Calories in < calories out is a pretty good way to lose weight, as long as you eat an otherwise healthy diet.  Fortunately foods generally low in calories -- fruits, vegetables and fish, for example -- are the ones you should be eating.  Sounds simple enough.

A few nights ago I ran across "Love Crunch Premium Organic Granola" at (surprise!) Whole Foods.  Those of you who read my post, "What Whole Foods Doesn't Tell You," over on the SBM blog, will have caught me in a broken promise here.  In the post, I deplored a magazine, "What Doctors Don't Tell You," found in the check-out aisle.  The magazine was chock-full of "alternative" health garbage, including downright dangerous advice on cancer treatment.  I swore, right there in front of everybody, that I would not darken the door of Whole Foods again as long as they continued to promote such nonsense.  

But the hour was late, Whole Foods was close, and I was jet-lagged.  I would need sustenance the next morning until I could make my way to a real grocery store.  I caved. Once inside, I found that Whole Foods had totally ignored  my rant against its pseudoscientific publications (if the company ever knew about it in the first place) and continued to stock "wellness" (sic) literature.  

Love Crunch was hanging there on a gizmo attached to the cooler containing yogurt. I figured a few sprinkles might be good in the yogurt.  Why not?

Here's why not: Love Crunch contains 150 calories per one-fourth cup, the serving size listed on the label.  I could eat ice cream for breakfast instead. Or cookies. In fact, Love Crunch's ingredient list was not unlike that found in some oatmeal raisin cookie recipes: rolled oats, evaporated cane juice (i.e., sugar), coconut, white chocolate chunks, oil (soy oil) and butter (in this case, cocoa butter). But, hey, some of the ingredients are organic and GMO-free. The purchaser is urged to reuse the bag it comes in, although what one would use it for escapes me.

This inspired me to do a highly scientific research project consisting of comparing Love Crunch to other cereals in my pantry: Cheerios, Crunch Bran (Publix's house brand of Raisin Brand), Shredded Wheat and Post Great Grains (with raisins, dates and pecans).  Because the other cereals ranged in serving size from 3/4 to 1 1/4 cup, the comparison involved math, including percentages. This is not my forte, and if you want to do your own ciphering, your results may differ.  

Who eats 1/4 cup of cereal for breakfast anyway?  Your pet rabbit? The Cheerios box says that a serving for children under 4 is 3/4 cup.

So how did Love Crunch stack up? At 600 calories a cup, it had far more calories that it's nearest competitor, Great Grains, which came in at 263.  The others ranged from 100 - 190 calories per cup.  It also had the most sodium: 220 mg per serving versus 140 to 180 for the others. And more sugars: 24 grams per serving versus 3 - 20 grams.  There were whopping 240 calories from fat in that 600 calories. Others contained 8 - 36 calories from fat per serving. 

To its credit, Love Crunch had more dietary fiber: 8 grams versus 3 - 6 grams. And more protein, although the average American diet is not deficient in protein. All in all, Love Crunch was the least healthy option among the 5 cereals.  The healthiest was Shredded Wheat, followed by Cheerios. 

Whole Foods makes much in its advertising about its commitment to selling food "in its most essential, pure and basic form," avoiding artificial ingredients, and providing "whole, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal, unrefined and unprocessed foods."  But I couldn't find a word about calories on its "Four Pillars of Healthy Eating" webpage.

Whole Foods does make a laudable commitment to the humane treatment of animals and local sourcing of the food it sells. And perhaps it is unfair to judge the company too harshly based on a couple of magazines and one product. (Yes, there is another magazine and I found it on my recent visit.  More about this in a future SBM post.) But it also seems hypocritical to vaunt one's commitment to health while, at the same time pushing quack remedies (like homeopathy) and breakfast foods high in sodium, sugar, fat and calories.  The nation's number one health problem is obesity, not GMO and non-organic foods. 












Points of Interest 11/03/2014
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