Why Consumers Need to be Wary of “Nutriwashing”
September 27, 2012
Culinary Nutritionist Andrea Canada explains how the recent "nutriwashing" trend is misleading grocery shoppers everywhere.
While strolling through a grocery aisle recently, a "nutrition rich cookie" caught my eye. While it looked a lot like an Oreo, the box boasted some nutritional benefits, claiming that the cookies contained as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal, as much calcium and vitamin D as a glass of milk and as much vitamin C as a cup of blueberries.
Further inspection of the Nutrition Facts label revealed that all was not as a nutritious as it seemed. Not surprisingly, sugar was the first ingredient (don't forget that ingredients are listed in order of weight) and of course the cookies were fortified with vitamins, minerals and fiber to be able to make its nutrition claims. More disturbing were the 150kcal and 1.5g of saturated fat for every 3 cookies (for comparison, actual Oreos have about 155kcal and 2g of saturated fat for the same 33g serving).
This cookie masquerading as a healthy snack is the latest example I’ve seen of "nutriwashing." Nutriwashing describes the way in which vitamins, minerals, fiber or other nutrients are added to heavily processed and typically unhealthy foods to make them seem more nutritious to consumers. Nutriwashed foods not only encourage people to eat more processed food but also confuse the message about healthy eating. A quick look at the testimonials on the website for these cookies make my point; one person described them as "delicious and guilt-free."
Consumers should not be misled into believing that heavily-processed cookies, even when fortified with vitamins and minerals, are a guilt-free healthy snack. Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, dried beans, nuts and other minimally processed foods are packed with nutrition and don’t need flashy claims to make them seem nutritious.
For more nutrition advice and information, read our Nutrition 101 blog!
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