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Culture Health News

UK’s Healthy Meals Are Actually Cheaper Than Junk Food, Based On Report

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One of the biggest reasons I hear that people don’t purchase healthy food, is that it’s expensive. Everybody perceives healthy food, such as food from Whole Foods and other specialty stores, to be much more expensive than other stores, but this study just proved everybody wrong on that front.

A new report from the UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) concluded that healthy food purchased at two of the country’s leading supermarkets was significantly cheaper than their junk food variants across 78 different food and drink products. The cost was based by edible weight, and unhealthy foods were shown to be more costly per kilogram.

A typical cheeseburger, which costs a Euro, could easily be replaced by ten apples, seven bananas, or over five pounds of pasta — all of which cost the exact same price.

The cheapness of junk food has often been used as a reason to justify obesity issues in countries like the United Kingdom and United States. This study debunks that theory, at least when it comes to food prices in the UK. Head researcher Chris Snowdon offered up alternative theories for the increase in obesity in an interview with Foodbeast:

“First, food in general is cheaper than ever and so it is easy to eat too much of it. Many of the food groups that are defined as healthy by the UK government can easily be consumed to excess, particularly starchy carbohydrates such as pasta and potatoes. As late as the 1970s, there were millions of people who were not obese simply because it is was not affordable for them to be. Real incomes have since doubled, even among low income groups, so that is no longer the case.”
“The second point is that physical activity has declined steeply as a result of the decline in manual labour and the advance of labour saving devices. Public Health England estimates that physical activity has declined by 24% since the 1960s. (Note that overall physical activity is distinct from leisure time activity, such as going to the gym. The latter has risen, partly as a response to the decline in activity at home and at work, but not enough to offset that decline.)”
“These two factors, taken together, are sufficient to explain the rise in obesity seen since the 1970s.”
So the United Kingdom is eating more and exercising less — things that can easily be reverted to combat obesity.
Healthier food could also potentially be cheaper than junk food in the United States. Although a Harvard study showed that the healthiest possible diet costs $1.50 per day more than a diet based on junk food here, it’s possible that diets that incorporate healthy food could be cheaper.
Along with the factors that Chris Snowdon mentioned above, another factor that contributes to obesity is food insecurity. Millions of Americans don’t have a grocery store that they can go to on a regular basis to purchase food. As such, many of them rely on junk food and processed items as sources of nutrition, which are definitely a major contributor to the obesity problems in America.
In comparison, the United Kingdom addresses its food security by importing 40% of the food that it’s population consumes to ensure it has a constant food supply. This puts a significant proportion of its food supply in danger, as it relies on the success of other countries’ agricultural production to feed its people.
While these factors all play in to obesity, we can all do our part to combat obesity by purchasing less junk food and purchasing more healthy food. It will influence the industry to produce more healthy products and help us all learn to cook at home more.

And in the UK, it’s now proven to be cheaper than purchasing junk food as well.

Categories
Culture Health Hit-Or-Miss

Here’s What Those Labels on Your Food Products Really Mean

The food industry absolutely loves to throw a ton of healthy buzzwords onto food labels. Most food products these days bombard consumers with a variety of words like “clean label,” “non-GMO,” “gluten-free,” “organic,” and several more that consumers want to see on food labels.

These all sound great to consumers, because to consumers, all of these words make the foods that carry them sound healthy. However, a lot of people don’t know what all of these words mean, as has been proven by Jimmy Kimmel on numerous occassions.

As a food scientist, it’s my job to know what these words mean so I know if companies I work for meet the label requirements. My aim is to use what I’ve learned to clarify to consumers, so that the next time you go grocery shopping, you have an idea of what actually goes into the meanings for all of these words.

 

Organic

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Photo: The Plate

Organic is definitely one of the most complex labels out there. Food products that have varying percentages of organic ingredients are allowed to have different labels or say different things on their product packages, such as “Made with Organic Ingredients” or “100% Organic.” While consumers think that organic is great, a lot of people don’t understand what it means for something to be certified organic.

Organic labeling itself began in 1993, and was presented under a strict set of requirements. Organically grown food had to be free of specific chemicals that were established by the law (and the list continues to be modified even today), and the land it was grown on had to be free of these same chemicals for at least three years prior to growth. A whole host of other agricultural and farming practices are required for organic certification to be reached.

One of the biggest things to understand about organic that most people don’t, however, is that all organic products are also non-GMO by legal definition. So, if you purchase organic products, you don’t have to worry if GMOs exist in those products too, since they legally can’t be in there.

 

Non-GMO

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Photo: Food Scape Finds

While the federal government is just starting to get on board with non-GMO labeling, independent programs like the non-GMO project are sweeping across the nation. Having one of these verifications of non-GMO is just as important to consumers as the US requiring labeling of products containing GMOs will be.

While the US requirements are pretty simple to understand, the requirements for some of the independent verifiers are a little more tricky. The Non-GMO Project’s standards are broad, covering everything from traceability to the feed that livestock consume. It’s a big reason as to why their label is so coveted by a lot of food producers – as is the claim of non-GMO.

To be non-GMO requires the absence of any genetically engineered food ingredients or organisms in the production or growth of any product (Genetically modified is too loose of a word, since all living things’ genes are naturally modified over time). While there is no change in the actual nutritional content or toxicological risk of the food between GMO and non-GMO, ethics becomes the big question when choosing non-GMO products over GMO. There are good usages of GMOs, like in the reduction of food waste or scaling natural ingredients that couldn’t be grown in large amounts on their own. There are also bad uses, like we all saw with Monsanto in Food, Inc. Having the traceability to understand exactly what GMOs are in your product is key to understanding those ethics, though that could be a whole week of articles on its own.

 

Gluten-Free

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Photo: Men’s Journal

Gluten-Free is pretty straightforward: No gluten can be found in the product (Technically, less than 20 ppm is okay). Any food not containing wheat, rye, barley, or any of their hybrids can also be labeled as gluten free.

For those unclear on what gluten is, it’s a protein network developed inside of wheat, rye, and barley when mixed with water. Two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, contribute to the development of gluten and give bread its stretchiness a – while being painful for those with Celiac disease.

 

Whole Grain

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Photo: Don’t Panic Mom

Various label claims for whole grain like the amount in a food or “100% whole grain” are permitted by the FDA. They’ve also required that for whole grain to be on the label, the entire grain (or matching compositions of a whole grain) must be in the product.

These whole grains include cereal grains like amaranth, buckwheat, rice, quinoa, millet, wheat, and corn.

 

No Added Sugars

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Photo: Kev’s Snack Reviews

This is a trickier definition that was just defined recently by the FDA. With the new nutrition labels coming out requiring added sugars to be labeled, the FDA had to explain what added sugars are. In their words, added sugars are those added in during processing that are in excess of what could be found in natural ingredients added (ie. fruit juices).

No Added Sugars does NOT mean sugar-free, however. Sugars can still exist if it’s naturally in an added food ingredient (ie. fruit juice or milk), or comes from the breakdown of starches in food (by heat, fermentation, or grain sprouting). Keep that in mind as you shop for products and look at food labels.

 

All-Natural

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Photo: One Green Planet

All-natural used to be one of the most popular claims on food labels, but has a taken a hit recently. That’s because people now understand that there is no real definition of natural from the FDA as of right now, and all-natural basically means all of the ingredients come from nature. While that includes things like strawberries and wheat, it also includes not-so-appealing natural ingredients like carmine (crushed bug extract used as a food coloring) or castoreum (a natural vanilla flavor derived from beaver secretions).

The good news is that the FDA is currently attempting to define “natural,” so hopefully it can be used meaningfully on food labels again in the near future.

 

Clean Label

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Photo: Ingredients Network

Much like “all-natural” above, there is no official legal definition for “clean label” food products, either. The FDA hasn’t begun to consider that definition yet, but it is a topic of hot debate. Nobody is quite clear on what the definition is, but some key ideals have surfaced. These include using simple, real ingredients, as well as the removal of a large number of additives – often nicknamed as the “No-No” List.

 

Several other healthy buzzwords are out there that you can find, but these are some of the more key – or controversial – buzzwords found on several food products. Hopefully, the explanations provided on what these mean gives you a better understanding of what they mean – and makes you look harder the next time you go shopping.

Categories
Fast Food

Carl’s Jr. Switches Gears With a Line of Healthy Turkey Burgers

A few days ago we confirmed Hardee’s launch of a line of healthier, low-calorie Turkey Burgers and now we are privy to the varieties being offered up at Carl’s Jr. locations. While Carl’s Jr. has spent a considerable amount of time catering to a hungry, manly demographic, they’ve ultimately switched gears with this line of healthier options. The burgers, similar to those available at their sister brand Hardee’s, will be available on toasted wheat buns with all three available options clocking in under 500 calories.