Calories Schmalories

When people are trying to lose weight and maintain health, they often focus on the wrong things.

I don’t really care how many calories are in some thing. I don’t necessarily care about how many calories the treadmill tells me that I’ve burned off. The devil and the angel are in the details.

 Let me go through this Quaker Chewy granola bar I have in front of me. Well advertised on the front of this food item, right next to the picture of the affable Quaker gentleman is “90 calories” and “Low Fat.” Actually, on the packaging of this stumpy little granola bar, they manage to list the caloric content three times which is an impressive use of space.

The ingredients are: Granola (whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, crisp rice [rice flour, sugar, salt, malted barley extract], whole grain rolled wheat, soybean oil, whole wheat flour, sodium bicarbonate, soy lecithin, caramel color, nonfat dry milk), corn syrup, brown rice crisp (whole grain brown rice, sugar, malted barley flour, salt), raisins, oatmeal cookie pieces (sugar, enriched flour [wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid*], oats, soybean and/or palm oils, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, sodium bicarbonate), sugar, corn syrup solids, glycerin, invert sugar, soybean oil.

Wow.

 This is the kind of thing we give to our children every day as a healthy snack alternative. So sad.

One of my standard lines—it might be spiel #21, I forget—is that the mass produced staples of the American diet are generally low quality with minimal nutrient density.  These include beef, chicken, pork, wheat, corn and soy. Oats may not be too far behind depending on how they were grown and processed.

It’s not that those foods can’t be healthy.  It’s what comes out of the corporate food factories that’s really the issue and this is well documented in countless books and documentaries.

So the granola bar, the presumed healthier option, is a complex amalgam of oats, wheat, unhealthy oils and sugar with some other items tossed in for good measure. The fact that it is “enriched” is the ultimate insult.  They add a few vitamins so that the nutritional information won’t be all zeros.

 Don’t think I’m being self righteous either. I was hungry and I ate the thing.

 Andrew Lenhardt, MD

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