Being health conscious and making better choices in the “google it” age seems like it should be a breeze. We have endless resources and information in the palm of our hands (when we’re not aimlessly scrolling through instagram), but at a time where there is as much noise as there are choices in the “health food” aisle, we don’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed or let down.
Less shouting, more listening
This post stems from a recent focus group exercise we undertook (4 groups of 8 people, 3 female groups, 1 male group) which was facilitated by an expert so we could better understand how to serve the people who care (you awesome humans). It was amazing to sit behind the 1 way window to listen and watch complete strangers speak openly about our products (and 15 of our competitors) with no idea which product they were there to chat about (until the very end). It became immediately apparent with all groups that they are sick of being marketed to, bombarded with claims only to find out that there is so much BS in the “health” space. Zero Carbs, No added sugar, Natural Flavours, Brown Rice Syrup, numbers, stevia, monk-fruit the list goes on.
Deciphering the claims and ingredients list
Our packs might be a good place to start, let’s have a look at the Banana Bread Paleo Bar; front of pack claims are Gluten Free, No Added Sugars & Nothing Artificial. It’s reasonably easy to tick the claims off if you flip the pack & check the ingredients list. I won’t go through all 5 ;) but you can quickly see that this bar has 5 whole-food ingredients which are 100% natural, its only sweetened by dates & free from Gluten. Tick, tick, tick.
Watch out for these
Where we find it gets misleading is when you see Zero Carbs or no added sugars only to purchase the bar and find its sweeter than a tim-tam dipped in honey, or when you see natural flavours in the ingredients list. Let’s break it down.
Zero Carbs or No Added Sugars - The usual suspects when you see zero carbs are sugar alcohols (made in a lab) sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol, and maltitol, they are sweet, cheap and nasty and overconsumption can lead to bloating, diarrhea and flatulence because they are not fully absorbed in the small intestine. Some individuals experience such symptoms even in a single-serving quantity.
Natural Flavours - Natural flavors are complex mixtures created by specially trained food chemists known as flavorists. In addition to their original flavor source, these mixtures can contain more than 100 different chemicals, including preservatives, solvents and other substances. These are defined as "incidental additives."
However, food manufacturers aren't required to disclose whether these additives come from natural or synthetic sources. As long as the original flavoring source comes from plant or animal material, it is classified as a natural flavor.
What's more, because the term "natural" has no official definition, flavors sourced from genetically modified crops can also be labeled as natural.
Become an Insta-Nutritionist
The moral of this story is, flip the pack and read the ingredients list, if it doesn’t match up to the claims & your beliefs or has tons of unnecessary or un-natural fillers, stick it back on the shelf and look for something with a minimal whole food ingredients list (hint; Blue Dinosaur Bars!)
Jarrad Howse is the Brand Manager at Blue Dinosaur.