Healthy Food Trends–what you need to know to avoid the marketing and hype traps

There are many choices of “health” foods available to us at mainstream supermarkets and health food stores these days, but do we really need all that?  Usually these foods cost more, and I think that is a major issue that fuels the argument that eating healthy is expensive. 

I was reading an article from IDEA Fitness Journal (May 2012) aobut Food Trending and thought, “All we need is more fancy health food to confuse people!”. 

In fact, much of the article was about the marketing of these foods, based on the Natural Products Expo West in March (of course, in California). What is NOT in food (think: GMOs, gluten, wheat, soy, sugar) is a huge marketing trend in natural foods. They are banking on the fact that people want safe, clean food.

Here is a list of foods “trending” in the marketplace:

  • vegan or “plant-based diet” foods
  • international foods–biggest ones: indian, korean, mexican
  • popcorn and pickled veggies
  • granola
  • chips and crackers made from veggies, legumes, seeds, alternative grains (e.g. kale, quinoa, flax, hemp, lentils, etc)
  • flax milk and flax butter
  • freeze-dried superfruits and snacks
  • natural and organic energy bars
  • stevia-sweetened flavored waters
  • meat substitutes
  • vegan cheeses
  • ginger
  • flavored peanut butter and other nut butters

LOTS to peruse through on your regular grocery trip.  That’s what stores are betting on.  The longer you stay in a store, the more you spend.  Here is my take on these products and health food marketing:

  1. if you stick to the produce isle for the majority of your food, you don’t have to worry too much about reading labels. 
  2. If you start a garden, then YOU control what is on your food, and if its genetically modified, so think about starting a garden this spring.
  3. granola is generally speaking, a dessert food and full of sugar.  Some claim to have protein in them, but its in the form of TVP (textured vegetable protein) which is usually soy-based and not the best choice for getting protein (think overly processed food).
  4. same goes for chips and crackers.  unfortunately these two foods are the downfall of many people.  they think, this is a great way for me to get my veggies  or whole grains in for the day–sorry, not the best choice, especially if you are watching your waistline.  Save these for when you are having guests and want to offer a chip or cracker option.
  5. the benefits of flax are short-lived (meaning the good fats breakdown pretty easily–before you even get to it) so there probably aren’t any massive health benefits from flax milk or butter.  In fact, they probably pasturize it and therefore there are probably no true health benefits from it.  They are allowed to put pretty much whatever they want on the label, so don’t be deceived!
  6. watch stevia consumption.  there have been studies that show that an over-consumption of stevia causes infertility in male rats. 
  7. meat substitutes are plain and simple junk protein.  Eat sparingly.
  8. Finally, gluten free and whole grain foods such as breads, waffles, pancakes, etc are just an excuse for people to eat bread, however there isn’t much health benefit to breads, as we would buy in the store.  Bread products should be eaten sparingly if at all.

I would love to hear what YOU have to share on this subject!  Please leave a comment below.




4 thoughts on “Healthy Food Trends–what you need to know to avoid the marketing and hype traps

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