I always try to educate my clients on the difference between marketing and actual nutrition information. A box of granola bars could say loud and clear on the front, “HIGH IN FIBER!”. But what does that really mean? More fiber than a bowl of chili? A candy bar? You need to read the actual nutrition label to find out. And while you’re there, check the sugar content. Usually those granola bars that claim to be high in fiber are also very high in sugar.
Another favorite of mine: “KIDS LOVE IT!” or “MOM APPROVED!”. First of all, if kids love it than it most likely has tons of sugar or artificial flavors. And exactly which “moms” are they talking about? Please don’t lump us all together, thank you very much.
Reading labels is very important, and it’s something I constantly have to remind myself of. Case in point: Over Thanksgiving, my entire family was together in a small town northwest of the Twin Cities. My sister and I were driving home from something, and wanted to stop for a coffee in this small town. As we parked, we noticed a place called the Nutrition Spot. We decided to give it a try. I think we were both hoping for a little natural foods store where we could get a cup of coffee and maybe a banana, healthy power bar, or something similar. But instead we walked into a smoothie bar. Not the most appealing thing on a cold morning, but we felt like we had to order something since the place was empty.
The chalkboard listed the smoothies. They had names like “Berry Blast” and “Banana Mango Punch.” Sounds harmless enough. My sister asked what was in the “Citrus Splash” smoothie, and the woman started listing off the ingredients. Among them were a flavored vitamin powder, and lime Jell-O powder. My sister then asked for a list of ingredients in each smoothie, and we realized that most contained some type of artificial flavors and sugars. We chose one that seemed the most natural, but it definitely still had that chalky, artificial sugary taste.
Can you believe that a place that calls themselves the Nutrition Spot uses Jell-O in their smoothies? I was appalled. It doesn’t even sound appetizing, much less nutritious! They probably have people coming in who don’t know any better, and drinking their smoothies in an attempt to lose weight... and little do they know that all those fake sugars only make them store more body fat.
Lesson learned – just because a restaurant has “nutrition” in its name doesn’t mean it will meet your standards of nutrition. Always ask for an ingredient list if you feel the need to, and always read labels carefully when you are buying foods. And for those of you who are my clients right now, if you don’t yet feel comfortable reading labels, speak up. I’m here to help!