Thursday, February 18, 2010

Label confusion

I decided to treat myself to a cafe Americano this morning. While on line, I was reading the labels of some snacks Starbucks is promoting. They have all sorts of new, supposedly healthier snacks. In my mind many of them are better than say a huge slice of marble loaf, but they are all pretty much stuffed with added sugars and high in calories. I was reading the label of little light baggies of cookies, from Dr. Lucy. The package says they are intended for people with food allergies. They are nut, gluten, dairy, and egg-free. The package didn't say anything about being a "health" food per-se, but it did say it was trans-fat free and formulated by a doctor. I can't remember if they are organic.

There were so many annoying things about these packages that I didn't know where to start. First of all, the little package was what you would put in a lunch box, or eat with your coffee. It was maybe 3 or 4 small cookies - I think 4 for reasons to be explained below. The little package is 1.25 ounces. The package claimed that it contained 130 calories, and 1.3 servings. This leads me to believe there are 4 cookies in the package for a total of 173 calories or so. Why on Earth would the serving size of an obviously single-serving package be not the entire package, which is all of 4 cookies!!! So thumbs down for being confusing. Secondly, the cookies had 12 or 13 grams of sugar, depending on the variety (sugar, cinnamon, oatmeal, choc chip). This means the package had 18 or so grams of sugar. This is normal for a cookie, but IN NO WAY a health food.  Now all this is fine, if the cookies are marketed as cookies/a treat/not-healthy. People with food allergies deserve treats like the rest of us. But using my new formula learned from Dr. Nestle, I worked out that the cookies get about 40% of their calories from sugar.  173/(4cal x 18g). I didn't have time to do the fat math.

All fine...they are cookies after all, even though they have a very healthy looking mommy/doctor inventor named Dr. Lucy on the front. But then I did go to the web site, and the cookies are promoted as "guilt-free" treats. This is not true. 

I know many people with allergies and I'm glad their needs are being served. But Dr. Lucy should not equate allergy-free or organic or even trans-fat free with a health food. Foods high in sugar are not health-foods. They may be a realistic part of a healthy diet, but they are not health foods themselves. Same is true for organic sugar-stuffed Stoneyfield yogurt, Cliff bars, sweetened, vitamin-enriched cereals, etc. Sugar provides calories free of nutrition, period. And I don't like how Dr. Lucy is cagey with portion sizes. 

Any why can't the labels be easier to decipher! 

The serving-size game is being looked-at by the FDA.

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