Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lessons From Nutella

I was recently reading about the two women who sued the makers of Nutella for false advertising.  One woman won $3.5 million in a class action lawsuit with the opportunity for anyone to file a claim for up to $20. 

On one hand, this may be a wake-up call for food manufacturers to stop advertising false claims about their products and that would be a good thing.  Packaged/processed foods frequently carry labels that say “all natural”, “heart healthy”, “may help lower the risk of heart disease”, etc., yet there are very few, if any processed foods that are healthy in any way, shape, or form. 

As consumers, though, there are a couple of points to remember when shopping for groceries that make lawsuits like this totally unnecessary and eventually obsolete:

Firstly, my knee jerk reaction to this lawsuit was similar to how I felt about the woman who burned herself with McDonald’s hot coffee and was awarded millions: where’s the personal responsibility?

One woman claimed that she only learned through friends what ingredients were in Nutella.  Yet, the label clearly states the ingredients.  If you’re not familiar with how to read a food label, the ingredients are listed in order of highest to lowest amounts.  Nutella’s first ingredient is sugar, which immediately makes it unhealthy.

Second, most health conscious consumers carefully read food labels to understand exactly what they’re putting into their bodies.  The winner of the lawsuit said that if she read all the labels when grocery shopping, it would take her four hours to shop.

The easiest way to reduce the amount of time spent reading labels and the fastest path to better health through diet is to avoid buying foods with labels and health claims.  A head of broccoli doesn’t come with a label explaining that it’s full of fiber, low in sodium and fat, or loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients - but it is. 

Ultimately, we are responsible for our diets, and those of our children, by the food choices we make.  We must be our own food detectives to understand exactly what we’re spending our money on and eating and the less we choose processed foods, the healthier we’ll be and less of a demand there will be for it.  As Michael Pollan says, “Vote with your fork.”   How you spend your money on food is the most powerful way to change our processed food system.

I understand that is difficult to change your eating habits overnight and most of us, it’s a slow process.  Processed foods are made to look, taste, and feel wonderful, but that’s where the goodness ends.   However, as you venture away from processed foods and focus on more real, whole foods, you’ll notice that your palette will evolve, and you’ll find that you enjoy processed foods less and less.  

Image courtesy of Suat Eman

Homemade Chocolate Nut Spread

If you’re a Nutella fan, you can very quickly whip up a batch of a healthier version with ingredients you may now have in your kitchen.  I posted a similar recipe several months ago.  However, as tempted as you may be to want to eat this with a spoon, it still has sugar and is a concentrated source of calories.  Still, it has s nice texture and it’s delicious on vegetables, especially celery!

1 cup all natural nut butter, such as peanut or almond
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 T vanilla
½ t salt

Add the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.  Scrape the sides halfway through for complete blending.  Use as a spread or dip and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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