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Healthy Junk Food?

When it comes to food labels, you’ve heard it all.

By: Matt Presser


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But what does it really mean? And why are most food items–from cookies to cereals, from potato chips to pork rinds–focusing more on what’s not in your snack than what is?

It’s all part of a trend that food companies have BEEN DEVELOPING for years: Healthy junk food. Sound like an oxymoron to you? That’s because it is. In most cases, when food producers take something out, they add something else in. And forget about the taste.

So many questions, if only the food’s packaging could provide the answers. But, to the dismay of the American consumer, it rarely does.

Looking for these answers, I hit the supermarket aisles, ready to determine what companies are doing to jazz up their junk food. Here are a few of the findings:

Canned Soup. Although it may come as a surprise to some, many canned soup varieties have high levels of trans fats, sodium and artificial preservatives, according to A can of Campbell’s 10-1/2 oz. chicken broth has almost 2,000 milligrams of sodium, which is a ton considering dietary guidelines recommend consuming no more than 2,400 milligrams in an entire day. Instead, Campbell’s offers a low sodium version, which contains only 140 milligrams. I’ll let you do the tasting.

Sodas. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that 56 percent to 85 percent of children consume at least one soft drink a day. That’s a rather alarming fact, considering the average can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar, 150 calories and 30 to 55 milligrams of caffeine, not to mention the artificial coloring. Perhaps that’s why PepsiCo Inc. released a caffeine free alternative, as well as Pepsi One, which promises just one calorie. Coke also has a caffeine free version of its soda, as well as Coca-Cola Zero (“calorie free cola”) and Coca-Cola C2, which is said to offer half the carbohydrates and calories, but “all the great taste.”

Potato Chips. Even Frito-Lay is trying to make its greasy chips a little bit healthier. On my trip to the supermarket, I noticed five different bags of Ruffles brand original potato chips and had to do a quick comparison. The real thing had 10 grams of fat per serving and 160 calories. Then there were the reduced fat version (7 grams, 140 calories), Ruffles Natural Reduced Fat Regular Sea Salted Potato Chips (7 grams, 140 calories), Baked! Ruffles original potato crisps (3 grams, 120 calories) and finally Ruffles Light Original (0 grams, 70 calories), which are touted as having “[half] the calories of regular potato chips.”

Even fried pork rind producers are advertising the health benefits of their treats. Chifles “Hot ‘N Spicy Pork Rinds” have 0 grams of carbohydrates per serving. But before you subscribe to the fried pork rind diet, keep one thought in the back of your mind: No matter what the junk food producers take out, some dietary demons will never make ideal additions to your shopping list… or to your waistline either.

0 0 172 11 February, 2006 Advice, Health, Lifestyle, News February 11, 2006

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