Wednesday, October 6

Those Sneaky Health Halos

We’ve previously discussed Health Halos, which is a fancy word for the perception of “healthy” that we apply to foods that carry certain labels—labels like “low fat” or “sugar free.”  You can check out that post here.
Today I’d like to take a look at another category of labels that are creating health halos all over the place: organic, all natural, or locally grown.
I read a lot of the other blogs in my category.  I find that many of the healthy living blogs that focus on food (you’ll know them by the endless stream of food-photo filled posts) use a lot of the above buzz words.  One blogger in particular is genuinely trying her best to eat as healthy as she possibly can but often shares recipes that have ingredient lists like this: organic flour, all natural sugar, locally raised eggs, etc.  Congratulations!  You’ve just made an organic, all natural, locally supported waffle that has the exact same calories as any waffle at any Der Waffel Haus.
Unprocessed?  Yes.  Healthy?  No.
The worst part is—as is with any health halo—we tend to eat more of a food that we think is healthy than we would if we knew we were eating something that has a higher calorie content.  One of my favorite magazines, Cooking Light, just wrote an article on this: check it out.
When we’re not on our guard, it’s easy to assume that organic is the same as healthy.  Eating unprocessed foods is definitely a healthy goal.  And there are plenty of organic foods that are also low calorie.  But you ask: “Oh how are we to tell the difference?  Oh where are we to find this elusive information?” (I hope you put as much dramatic voice into those questions as I did in my head.)  You need to look right past those labels and headlines to find the nutritional information on packaging.  You check serving size first, calories second and then scan the rest of the info (looking particularly at fat and carbohydrates).
Have you ever eaten a food and only found afterward that it wasn’t as healthy as you thought?  Are there labels that you think you’re particularly attracted to?  Why do you think these kinds of labels work so well on us?


Raegun said...

I am so guilty of falling for the health halo. This is a great reminder not to!

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