When you go to the supermarket, do you buy most of your food from the fruit & veg section, the fresh fish & meat section, and the natural oats, bulgar wheat & brown rice section? Or to do make a beeline for the ready-meals, fizzy drinks, sugary snacks, cakes &
The food choices you make largely determine your weight and body fat levels. And your body fat levels largely determine your health. As a personal trainer in London, I ask my clients if I can check their fridge and freezer and food cupboards, to see what their eating habits are. It’s amazing how much junk I find!
Here are some tricks the food industry uses to tempt you:
If you see processed food labelled ‘low fat’, check the salt and sugar levels, they’re probably sky-high. Just because something is low-fat doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Energy drinks companies have some of the most brilliant marketing strategies on the planet. They give the impression that energy drinks will turn you into a dynamic, cool and sporty person. But do people know what they’re really drinking? Far better to have a bottle of tap-water, which has none of the artificial stimulants and sweeteners that wreck your metabolism and insulin system.
Many ready-meals have ‘British Made’ labels, or similar claims to be British. Because consumer law is so pathetically weak in this country, to qualify as British made, the ready-meal only has to be ‘last handled’ in Britain. The food itself could be from mechanically recovered meat in Eastern Europe, but as long as it’s been packaged in Britain, it legally counts as ‘British’.
Trading Standards enforces labelling in the UK, but they are so underfunded, their powers so limited, and legislation so loaded in favour of the big food manufacturers, that they can do little to protect the consumer.
All this means is that the pre-packed salad has been washed with organic washing agents. Much better to buy fresh individual leafy vegetables such as lettuce and young leaf spinach from market stalls, and wash it yourself. You’ll get far more nutrients than pre-packed salads, whose vitamins and minerals are depleted by the time you eat them.
Some takeaway chicken has been found to contain high levels of water mixed with powdered skin and bone of several different animals. Rather then buy from takeaways, buy chicken from a good butcher.
Special offers tempt people into eating unhealthily. Fast food restaurants have been doing this for years, with special offers on a combo package of burger, fries and a fizzy drink. Supermarkets do this too, with lunchtime sandwiches, a bag of crisps and a fizzy drink.
This ‘bundling’ phenomenon began in the States, which normalised over-eating among large sections of the population, particularly the poorest socio-economic groups.
Cunning advertising has created new generations of kids who regularly snack on sweets between meals. School lunch-boxes often contain a chocolate bar of some kind. And the famous Mars ad, “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play” has convinced millions that it’s a great addition to your daily diet. And Milky Way was advertised as the sweet you can eat between meals.
The food industry has manufactured new times to eat: between meals. In the UK the sugary/salty snack industry (crisps, chocolate bars etc) is around £6 billion a year.
‘Balanced diet’ fallacy
The junk food industry’s stock defence is that their food is perfectly OK as part of a healthy balanced diet. The problem is, junk food has no part in a healthy balanced diet. If you eat junk food, your diet is not healthy or balanced, however many vegetables you eat.
‘Balanced diet’ means an optimum balance between fruit, veg, complex carbs, wholesome protein foods, and foods containing ‘good fats’. There’s no room for junk food in a healthy balanced diet.
The sole aim of the junk-food industry is to boost sales and profits, regardless of the health consequences. They spend millions on advertising to kids, research and development to trigger the hedonistic responses in the brain to get you hooked, and further millions fighting off tougher regulation and even dissemination of scientific reports warning of the risks of excess sugar consumption.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) wrote a report warning of the health consequences of excess sugar in our diets. But the Sugar Association persuaded the American government to threaten to withdraw funding of the WHO unless the WHO agreed not to publish its report. The WHO backed down, and an important report on world health was buried.
As a personal trainer I advise all my London clients: If you really value your health, and if you seriously want to achieve your fitness goals, eat real food, cook it yourself, and eat a healthy balanced diet. And that means no junk food, no takeaways, no sugary snacks.