Healthy snacking: Marketplace looks at why 'superfoods' may be a myth
'The bottom line here is you really can't judge a food product by its healthy-sounding name'
Trying to stay on track with your New Year's resolutions? Hunger pangs that come in the middle of the afternoon can derail even the best intentions to eat healthy.
CBC's Marketplace looked at some popular snack-food labels that may fool shoppers into thinking they're getting a dose of guilt-free food.
"I think the bottom line here is you really can't judge a food product by its healthy-sounding name, or a few words on the box, or even a healthy-looking picture, for that matter," says registered dietitian Leslie Beck.
- How does your snack measure up? Tweet a photo with the hashtag #SnackAttack and dietitian Sue Mah will serve up advice on CBC News Network this Friday, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET
- Watch Marketplace's Snack Attack at 8 p.m. ET (8:30 p.m. NT) Friday on CBC TV and online
Here are her tips for mid-afternoon pick-me-ups that won't pack on the pounds.
While it's easy to get sucked into trendy food fads, Beck says some of those buzzwords are misleading.
"There is no superfood," she says. "There's no one food that's going to stave off disease and keep you healthy. It's really your overall diet that matters."
One serving — 13 chips — contains 370 milligrams of sodium. That's one-quarter of your recommended daily intake, Beck says.
The company says while their snacks may not be the lowest sodium option, they use wholesome ingredients, like kale, beans and chia seeds.
"Don't fall prey to a label that says this is a superfood, or includes a superfood ingredient," Beck cautions. "It may be a very nutritious ingredient, but 'superfood' is really elevating its status a little too high."
Read the ingredients … carefully
Wholesome-looking packaging doesn't always tell the whole story, but the back of the box is a good go-to. Knowing how to read it is key.
"Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight," says Beck. "So the higher up they are on the ingredient list, the more of them you're going to get per serving of the food."
With Beck's help, Marketplace analyzed the label of a CLIF chocolate chip energy bar.
Three of the top five ingredients -- "brown rice syrup," "chocolate chips" and "cane syrup" -- are all types of sugar, Beck says.
In total, the bar contains 23 grams of sugar, slightly more than a regular size Kit Kat bar.
"This product has a lot of other nutritious ingredients that aren't in a chocolate bar," says Beck. "But sugar-wise, it's high."
CLIF tells Marketplace the product was designed with athletes in mind — not your average snacker. The company also says a Kit Kat doesn't deliver the same level of overall nutrition as a CLIF bar.
Beck points out that the World Health Organization suggests people only eat about 25 grams of sugar a day. With that in mind, she recommends shoppers look closely at what goes into their favourite products.
"You'll see multiple sources of sugar in different places on the ingredient list," she says. And again: "The first few ingredients are the most important."
Stick to the serving size
Watching what you eat is only half the battle. Equally important, Beck says, is paying close attention to how much you're munching.
"You have to really look at that because if you're eating a bag of chips, that might be eight servings or more," Beck says.
Not all serving sizes are intuitive, so you sometimes have to do the math.
When you reach for your favourite snack, Beck says to ask yourself: "Are you eating one serving, [or] are you eating more?"
With certain tasty foods, she says, you could easily be downing a higher amount.