Should you really 'Eat Your Breadgies?'

Processed foods being promoted as healthy options has given rise to a marketing trend called 'healthwashing.'

New marketing campaign promotes vegetables baked into bread

Country Harvest's line of Veggie Bread bakes dehydrated vegetables into its products. (Country Harvest/Facebook)

Thanks to a sizable marketing campaign, a new line of Country Harvest breads is being promoted for its vegetable content. There’s a loaf baked with green pepper and spinach, another with tomato, red pepper and zucchini.

It was enough to attract the attention of University of Manitoba professor Joyce Slater.

“What’s more appealing than getting your veggies right inside your bread? It eliminates the need to peel, slice, dice, cook, carry and crunch those pesky vegetables,” she said.

Joyce Slater is an assistant professor of human nutritional science at the University of Manitoba. (University of Manitoba)
But in addition to being a busy mom, Slater is also an assistant professor in human nutritional science. Once she picked up a loaf and looked a little more closely, the reality was a little disappointing.

“When you look at the actual amount of vegetable material in these breads, they clock in around a quarter of a serving of vegetables per slice. So that’s about two tablespoons," she said.

"Given that Canada’s Food Guide says we should have upwards of eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you’d have to be eating 32 slices of this bread to get your daily requirements. That’s a little bit heavy on the carbs.”

The nutritional information for Country Harvest's carrot, celery and leek loaf. (Country Harvest)
The bread, baked with carrots, leek and celery, says it offers a serving of vegetables in every slice and should also offer the benefits of vitamin A, which is plentiful in carrots, and vitamin C, which can be found in leeks.

But a look at the nutritional panel for this particular loaf indicates only a small amount of vitamin A, and no measurable amounts of vitamin C. 

Kraft Dinner Smart includes a small amount of cauliflower. (Kraft Canada)
Slater said more and more of these types of processed foods are turning up in grocery stores because they offer the illusion of being healthy thanks to a few nutritionally sound ingredients, and rely heavily on marketing to attract consumers.

This trend that has given rise to the term "healthwashing," as products like macaroni and cheese containing small amounts of dried cauliflower and applesauce blended with a few teaspoons of vegetables have hit shelves.

Slater said these products appeal to our desire to eat better without having to do any work, but she pointed out that these products do not offer the same benefits as eating measurable amounts of actual vegetables. 

“What we’re missing when we don’t eat vegetables are a whole array of micronutrients, even some as-yet-to-be-discovered nutritional compounds that are beneficial to our health and help prevent disease,” she said.