7 Reasons Why ‘Activity Icons’ on Food Packages is a Bad Idea

The Royal Society for Public Health claims that adding ‘activity equivalent’ icons – pictures showing how many minutes of physical activity it would take to burn off the calories in a food or beverage – could be an effective way to help people make smart dietary choices.

We all know this won’t work, right?

Continue reading “7 Reasons Why ‘Activity Icons’ on Food Packages is a Bad Idea”

This is 200 Calories

Resident author and runner Cindy sent this to me, and I thought it was a great fun Friday share. My only nitpick is that the video doesn’t differentiate between kilocalories and calories; but the message is the same nonetheless.

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/KMGUmcveQeg” width=”100%” height=”480″]

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us – Book Review

SaltSugarFat“Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” is the first book from Pulitzer-prize winning author and journalist Michael Moss. It’s a fascinating look at the politics, economics and demographic trends that shape our food culture, and the ways that big food companies capitalize on them. Continue reading “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us – Book Review”

Ninja Blender Review – The BL660 Professional

The Ninja BL600 Professional Blender
The Ninja BL600 Professional Blender

Hey peeps! I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. Once upon a time, I used to have a little side gig doing electronics reviews.

Seriously. I’m not making this up. Televisions; tablets; LCD monitors, laptops; iPod accessories, and kitchen appliances – I reviewed them all. Continue reading “Ninja Blender Review – The BL660 Professional”

The Many Names of Sugar

One of the tricky bits about food labelling is that it’s not always easy to determine what a particular ingredient actually is.

Sugar is a case in point. Here’s a little table, sourced from the Canadian Sugar Institute, of the various names, and sources, of basic sugar additives in foods:

Sugars Listed in the Ingredient List Source of Sugar
Sucrose, sugar, liquid sugar, invert sugar, molasses Sugar cane or sugar beets
Glucose/fructose, dextrose, corn syrup solids, dextrin corn
Honey honey
Maple syrup Maple sap
(concentrated) fruit juice Fruits such as pear, apple, or grape for example

If you’re a real food nut, you can dig around through Google search results to find other sweeteners (maltodextrin, for example) that are derived from or related to sugar.

The usual reaction to labelling sugar and sugar-related products in this manner is that food manufacturers are trying to “hide” the fact that their products contain sugar. It’s nothing like that. Sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose, dextrin, and all other sweeteners are chemically different form each other; therefore the manufacturer is bound by labelling law to list exactly what went into the product.

Unfortunately, that puts the onus on the consumer to educate themselves about the actual additive behind the label. But that’s the role of  the true Wellness Rebel – to go beyond the surface and take responsibility to dig for the real truth.

However, there’s a minefield to navigate outside of the list of ingredients; there’s the labelling on the front of the package as well. Terms such as “sugar-free” and “reduced-sugar” have their own meaning, as well.

The Canadian Sugar Institute offers this guide to package labelling claims, and what the requirements are behind those claims:

Sugar – Related Claims Regulations
"sugar-free free of sugar no sugar 0 sugar zero sugar without sugar contains no sugar sugarless" Contains < 0.5 g sugars per reference amount and “free of energy” (< 5 cal per reference amount).
reduced in sugar, reduced sugar, sugar-reduced, less sugar, lower sugar, lower in sugar Compared to a similar reference food, contains > 25% less sugars and > 5 g less sugars/reference amount.
"lower in sugar less sugar lower sugar" Compared to a reference food of the same food group, contains > 25% less sugars and > 5 g less sugars/reference amount.
"no added sugar no sugar added without added sugar" Contains no added sugars, no ingredients containing added sugars or ingredients that contain sugars that substitute for added sugars.
unsweetened Meets requirements for “no added sugar” and contains no sweeteners.

Well, the table certainly tries to be helpful, I’ll give it that. Although some of the wording is a little obtuse: “Contains no…ingredients that that contain sugars that substitute for added sugars”. I’m still not quite sure about that one.

I’ve read through the site, and honestly I find it a little disturbing that the Institute – which has an interest in the marketing and production of sugar – also provides pages for consumers, educators, and health professionals on topics such as weight management, dental health, and healthy eating guidelines.

Is it just me or do I sense a conflict of interest with this approach? Leave your thoughts in the comment area below!

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Sugar: The Sneaky Ingredient

So I’m on Day 6 of giving up refined sugars, and I’m pretty shocked at the ubiquitousness of sugar in a large number of my favourite foods.

I used to think that I was a pretty educated food consumer, but these sugar-containing foods are the latest ones I’ve come across that make me scratch my head in wonder:

  • Miracle Whip dressing
  • turkey kolbassa sausage
  • processed deli ham, salami, and pepperoni

I’ve found that I need to be rather resourceful when working around sugar-containing foods. Bread’s a pretty easy one to manage – I have long been a fan of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes that only contains flour, yeast, water and salt. However, there are some tricky foods where there aren’t any quick and easy alternatives on the grocery store shelf:

  • Pretty much every commercial salad dressing contains sugar in some form, so I’ve resorted to lime juice and freshly ground pepper on my salads, which is unexpectedly good.
  • Burger toppings are tricky; ketchup and relish are loaded with sugar. I’ve used hummus as a very tasty burger topping.
  • I made my own mayonnaise for my burger this past weekend; although it was a bit thin, it still was very tasty. Just be sure to not keep any leftovers; mayonnaise is made with raw eggs, so it’s best to only make what you need and throw the rest out.
  • Cookies and other baked goods are tricky; but my friend Jen passed on a completely delicious cookie recipe that is sweetened with real maple syrup and is also egg-free!

I’ve been experimenting with substituting molasses in place of sugar for my baking with…mixed results. But that’s destined for another blog post.

Keep the sugar-free recipes coming, peeps! I can’t wait to try them!

Cheers,

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Giving up Refined Sugars

I’m embarking on a short challenge to see if I can give up refined sugar in my diet.

For those of you who still participate in Lenten Fasts, I’ve chosen this year to avoid refined sugars in my diet for the next forty days or so.

That means:

  • no white sugar,
  • no foods containing sugar, and
  • no foods containing glucose-fructose (HFCS, in other words)

I’m still on the fence about whether honey and maple syrup really count as refined sugars or not; I know what Wikipedia says about unrefined sugars, but honey and maple syrup are still concentrated sugars. I’m not sure if I’ll avoid the honey this trip, even knowing of the potential health benefits of honey.

It’s turning out to be a lot harder than I originally thought.

On day 1 I was enjoying some ketchup on my dinner, but all of a sudden I panicked and looked at the back of the bottle. I’d forgotten that sugar was listed as one of the ingredients. Shoot. I wasn’t even 24 hours into my challenge and I’d already screwed up!

So I’ve been even  more anal about reading the food labels of the things I consume. So far, here’s a list of the items I normally enjoy on a day-to-day basis that, surprisingly, contain added sugar:

  • Mango Lime Salsa
  • Fully-cooked prepared meatballs (really?)
  • Flour tortillas (REALLY? Come ON!)

I usually claim to be a fairly well-educated food consumer, but these caught me off guard. The regular chunky salsa I keep in the fridge doesn’t have any added sugar. Why you’d add sugar to meatballs is beyond me, and the presence of sugar in a FLAT, unleavened flour tortilla seems ridiculous.

I think I’ll be looking for some help from you guys in the next little while for some recipes to satisfy my sweet tooth. I love fruit, but sometimes I want to chow down on something that closely resembles a cookie, but doesn’t have a bunch of white sugar in it. This could be tricky.

Do you have any favourite recipes to share that are sugar-free? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Cheers,

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