A lot of random thoughts pop into my head over the course of a week. According to my extensive Google research the number of thoughts an average person has in the course of a day is somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000. That’s a lot of information to process, actions to action and questions to ponder.
One of the random thoughts I had this week came while I was watching TV and saw an ad for low fat cheese. I just want to put it out there that one of the joys of my life is cheese and I think any tampering with the fat content is pretty much an abomination against nature and a slap in the face to the poor cows that work so hard to give us the milk that makes our cheese. But watching this ad led to a chain of thoughts about diet and ”healthy “ food products and I wanted to assault your eyeballs and to see if you had any thoughts on the subject.
Take a trip to any supermarket in the western world and your brain could very well be overloaded by the sheer volume of food choices available. And over the last ten or twenty years an increasing number of diet based, low fat , reduced sugar , reduced fat, no fat food alternatives have popped up on supermarket shelves for consumers to buy. And why not – according to a World Health Organisation study done in 2008 , 1.4 billion people world wide are overweight or obese. With a potential market like that low fat /diet products are a big potential market.
I just want to chuck in a little disclaimer here so this whole post doesn't make me sound like a hypocrite. Its well documented that I eat junk, that I’m addicted to salt and vinegar chips and that I put wayyyy too much butter on pretty much everything I eat. I actually like McDonalds. Hand me a triple cheeseburger and I’ll be your minion for life. This is not a preachy holier than thou post about whether I'm better than anyone else in the eating stakes. We all know Im not. The questions I’m pondering here are whether low fat /diet products are a case of clever advertising and whether what we really need is better education around healthy eating and portion control.
Obviously someone is buying diet food products because there so many alternative versions of them out there but it’s certainly not me. Pop into Maison Pyjamas and the only thing you’re likely to find that resembles diet anything is reduced fat milk and several bags of chips that have the label “now with 75% less saturated fat” . I didn’t ask the Thins people to reduce the fat content of my chips – they just took it upon themselves to do it to provide an apparently healthier product - and does anyone else find it ironic that a product that in all likelihood contributes a fair amount to my own less than slender frame is called Thins? )
Manufacturers are careful not to label their products “ diet” because they don’t want you to think you’re fat – they want you to think when you buy them you’re making healthy choices so you can continue to feel good about yourself. Nobody wants to actually think they need to diet. And in fact I don’t think the majority of us actually do need to diet – I think we just need to make different food choices.
My take on this whole question is that it’s OK to eat full fat yogurt – just not 5 litres of it a week. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat takeout –just not three times a week. And full fat cheese is not the enemy here – so long as you don’t eat 150 grams of it every single day.
The simple antidote to the need for diet food versions is to eat less and practice portion control. We need to eat a more balanced diet and we need to not be putting highly tampered with food into our bodies under the guise of it being healthy for us simply because it’s low fat. Many low fat yogurts are incredibly high in sugar or modified sugar substitutes. You practically need a degree in chemical engineering to work out whether it’s really a better alternative and whether while sacrificing fat (and in my opinion taste) you aren’t going to give yourself diabetes or aspartame poisoning.
So I won't be buying low fat anything any time soon. But what about you - what do you think? Are diet products a viable and needed part of what we have available to us as consumers or are they just a clever marketing ploy ?