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“There were no significant differences between health food snacks and regular aisle snacks in terms of energy, saturated fat or sodium." University of Sydney study

I noticed this ad in the latest Coles Magazine. I mean it was screaming healthy and yet oozing, nay, dripping chocolate. "That's Carman's Kind of Care" it says at the bottom of the page with a cute little cartoon bee, hovering over the old-fashioned font that declaims 'Carman's'. Gluten free it also says in capital letters as it points to the chocolate. Protein indeed a specific 10g of protein per bar is also front and centre. And cranberries too - they're healthy aren't they? Dark chocolate - not just ordinary chocolate - dark chocolate is good for you isn't it?

I could not actually believe this, and I'm sure that you wouldn't either, but obviously others do.

So today when we were in Woolworths I walked down the health food aisle and snapped a few products that didn't look that healthy to me. See below. It's just a small and fairly random collection. I didn't really check out all the cereals for example. And this is not a go at Woolworths - all the supermarkets sell the same or similar products.

Now every single one of those products had something written on it that was 'good'. There were lots of Australian made and owned statements, or in contrast Belgian chocolate which is the other end of the spectrum really in terms of appealing to luxury and indulgence rather than health. there were also lots of words like organic, low carb, low sugar, gluten free, protein figured largely, whole foods ... Remember that all of these items are in the health food aisle. I have not picked them from the general shelves.

"A University of Sydney study has found that health food snack products contain significantly more claims and buzzwords than their non-health counterparts, despite being only marginally healthier." University of Sydney

You wouldn't think, for example, that these chocolate bars - at a whopping $5.60 each would be in the health food aisle. Why are they there? Well because they are vegan and organic. Organic is definitely not a necessarily healthy thing. Environmentally better - yes I suppose, but not automatically healthy. Ditto for vegan. Vegans can eat sugar and salt - the biggest evils in the food industry. They are both animal free products. So are most of those chemical additives.

So in the end I decided on a couple of examples. So let's take a look at the information provided on the Coles website, which is taken from the packets for the original impetus for the post - the Carman's bars. If you click on the images below you will see them in larger sizes.

The thing that really stands out for me on the nutrition side of things is the 52mg per serve of sodium (salt). An official Victorian recommendation for salt intake per day is 1-2g - with 5g being a maximum. I assume it would be less for children who are possibly a major portion of the consumers of such bars. They are designed for lunchboxes. Anyway it seems to me that that is around half of the daily intake. Sugar - recommended 24g for women and 36g for men. So I suppose 9.2g is not so bad. As for the list of ingredients. I suppose the thing to note here is that it's long and I do know that the shorter the list the better. I don't think there is anything particularly bad in there though - like palm oil for example.

Another example is the Uncle Toby's chewy bars which boast a 4star health rating. Only 5.5g of sugar it says on the packet, and 100% Aussie oats. But these are the only health claims here. 'Aussie' - deliberately chosen to show that it's friendly and somehow more genuine and less toffy than Australian. But how does it fare on the nutrition and ingredients?

The nutritional list, does not, in fact look too bad, but it has an incredibly long ingredient list that includes things with numbers, emulsifiers, humectants, and so on. Not really great.

Now, of course, there were probably things in the health food aisle that actually are really healthy. I have obviously only picked the evil looking things, but I didn't have to look very hard. Indeed I would say the vast majority of stuff that was there really didn't look healthy to me - particularly when it comes to the gluten free. And so much chocolate everywhere - actual chocolate not carob.

Last gripe. The price. Most of these things are expensive. If you are poor you are surely not buying them. Of course you can make your own muesli bars, and granola at home for a much cheaper price, although some of the things that turn up in those bars - nuts, seeds and 'ancient grains' are not cheap at all.

I don't know whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, but Coles have transferred a lot of their 'health food' things to the ordinary shelves. I believe that mostly the health food cereals are now mixed in with the ordinary cereals for example. But I think there still exists a gluten free section which, it has often seemed to me, is almost exclusively sweet things.

Sort of interesting anyway although I'm sure you know it all anyway.


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