Just the other day I was poking around the frozen foods section, something I periodically do. It’s become a spiritual practice of mine to stare at the ice cream freezer, breath deeply, and boldly walk by without purchasing, while reflecting upon my inner strength and awesomeness. However, this time something caught my eye.
A colorful new pint of birthday cake ice cream stared back at me. Not just any ice cream, but Low Cow ice cream. This little nugget of food technology had a label screaming with healthy buzz words and promises that seemed to good to be true. On it’s cheerful pink label, it celebrated only 280 calories per pint, and 24 grams of protein. Oh, and don’t forget, it’s gluten-free. Basically it seemed so good for you, you could practically skip your long run and just chow down on this laboratory concoction while continuing to build muscle.
Don’t delude yourself with these too-good-to-be-true products. They aren’t examples of health innovation, but rather an example of reductionism, a clever industry trick to separate a whole food into its nutrient components, which can then be promoted, confusing unsuspecting consumers into believing in the health benefits. These are food labels at their worst (or best, if you are the food manufacturer).
What does the label forget to mention? It is made of dairy, so it probably comes with a side of inflammation and maybe even a little animal cruelty, plus a good dose of whey protein for some excessive IGF-1 and cancer risk. Oh, and it is sweetened with all kinds of gut-disrupting, non-digestible goodness, to leave you running for the potty after you finish that second pint when no one’s looking, because hey, two pints are still half the calories of Ben and Jerry’s, right? Sorry, birthday cake flavor…at my age, I need to take good care of my body on my birthday, not poison myself.
So basically, if you see a promising food label on a food you traditionally need to stay away from, be forewarned that your relationship to that food matters more that whether it is a high calorie version, or some newfangled health halo version. If you are a cookie overeater, you will still be eating too many of the gluten-free health cookies and feeling bad afterwards.
Best to ignore the label. You know what foods serve you and what foods don’t, so don’t let any food manufacturer convince you that their version is the healthy exception. Just walk away, and reflect upon your inner strength and awesomeness.