Health Food Discrepancies: Why Dietitians aren't a fan of granola bars

As a dietitian I often get asked about the latest food trends or what the best foods for a person to eat are. Society has set us up for this question. Between commuting, after work (or school) commitments, spending time with loved ones, hitting the gym and catching some zzzz's after a few episodes of Netflix, there is little time left to sit down and eat a meal. And food marketers are capitalizing on this time crunch, highlighting health claims (which are often questionable) on their package fronts. And so, I am not surprised when people want to get the 'best bang for their buck' while trudging through the grocery store aisles with the latest media headline replaying in their mind. 

"Is kale really super healthy?"
 "I'm eating a spoon full of coconut oil every morning, that's great right?"
"Which granola bar is the best for my kid's lunch?" 

These are common questions I get asked by friends, family and even random encounters on the TTC. For some reason random strangers on the subway really like to start up conversations with me- needless to say, I have stopped telling them my profession! Anyways, regardless of the question, I know that more often than not, my answer may be met with some disappointment. Yes, kale is good for you but it isn't a superfood- eating leafy greens everyday is important but you don't need to be putting it in everything you eat (I'm an RD and I don't eat kale because I think it has the texture of chewing a j-cloth)! The same goes for coconut oil- it is very high in saturated fat and isn't the cure-all some chalk it up to be- so for cooking, only use it where you would any other oil. And finally, packaged granola bars are often high in fat and added sugars so you have to read the labels carefully- try making your own for a healthier option. 

Needless to say, I was not surprised when the New York Times came out with this infographic last week explaining the discrepancies between foods the public thinks are healthy and foods dietitians consider to be healthy. 

At the top of the list of confusion were foods like granola bars, sushi and quinoa. Thankfully, we all seem to agree that burgers, pop and white bread don't receive gold stars in nutrition. While the inconsistencies that do exist are glaring, dietitian Desiree Nielsen explains the reasons why the public and nutrition professionals don't see eye-to-eye in her article on the Huffington Post Canada. As humans we are so unique and so, not surprisingly are our nutrition needs. Mass media headlines don't apply to each of us in the same way. The next time you see a splashing nutrition headline, think about what it means for you personally, given your own life stage and medical history. When you are unsure, Desiree's words will always reign true: 

"And at the end of the day, you can always cling to the one universal truth: eat your veggies. Beyond that, ask your dietitian."  

Are you ever unsure about whether a certain food is healthy or not? We love hearing from you and playing detective on the latest food trends- send us an email with your burning questions!