Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, and Kelly Brownell have spoken and scores of their acolytes have listened.
While their message seems to be beyond reproach, don’t mistake their agenda. They want to change how we eat, to make us healthier they say, but maybe it’s not about our health but rather their wealth. Agitating the public about the food they’re eating sells books – lots of them!
Collectively enough noise has been made to make us question what we’re eating. Food manufacturers are responding to new, emerging food preferences. Specifically we are getting worried about added sugars, chemical additives, artificial stuff (colors and flavors) and just too many ingredients that cannot be pronounced.
In the 90s the influential voices railed against the saturated fat in foods, particularly baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes and the like.
The public reacted by trying to eliminate all fat in their diets and the fat-free industry flourished. Fat-free, however, was often higher calorie and while we gobbled those fat-free cookies expecting to lose weight we got fatter! It turned out a fat-free sandwich cookie had more calories that its cousins made with fat.
As fat became vilified, carbohydrates became the dietary hero.
We were encouraged to build our diets on complex carbs. The more carbs the better, and there was little worry about whether the carbs were processed or not. The advice was eat a lot of starchy foods.
Then came the 2000s and carbohydrates became the enemy.
Low carb and even no carb was said to be the healthy way to eat. Once again the food manufacturers helped us find plenty of low-carb/no-carb foods to keep us full and happy. Once again, we ignored calories and ate with abandon because we were following a diet that said, “cut out or cut back on carbs to lose lots of weight.” We cut out and back and filled our bellies with carb-free foods that added more calories than the foods they replaced. We got fatter.
Now the battle cry is “Eat less sugar! Eat less processed foods! watch out for scary ingredients you can’t pronounce – don’t eat that stuff! Eat like your great grandmother…heck! forget her, eat like your caveman ancestors!”
The food companies can hear us roar, so they’re giving us what we’re saying we want.
General Mills cut the sugar in its Yoplait Original line by more than 30 percent. Jeffrey Harmening, COO of General Mills, U.S. retail said, “We are not replacing it (sugar) with other sweeteners, artificial or otherwise.”
This should be good news. The new yogurt will have more milk solids and other ingredients in place of the sugar. A 6-ounce serving used to have 26 grams of sugar, the new yogurt will have only 18. Calories will be cut from 170 to just 150. Protein, the new “healthy and preferred” macronutrient will have 6 grams of protein instead of the former 5 grams.
More good news from General Mills! Cheerios are going “gluten free!” No, oats do not contain gluten, but the company processes its oat cereal in a factory where the oats may come into contact with other grains that do contain gluten. General Mills said it has a new facility at an oat-processing mill with proprietary technology, ensuring that the oats are not cross-contaminated with ingredients that contain gluten.
Food makeovers will go beyond General Mills. Expect all the major players to revamp their recipes to appeal to the new shopper looking for “more natural, less processed” foods. Does that mean they’ll be healthier or help fight obesity? I have my doubts. It seems as though we’re always searching for the way to eat to result in weight loss and good health without worrying about things like balance, moderation and calories in and out.