Have you been hearing what we've been hearing? "Skinny" is the new "low-cal" and "healthy" really means "okay to eat more". Huh? Let us explain.
The word "skinny" is being used on food products more recently to appeal to customers who are looking for healthier, waist-friendly choices. But whether or not they are actually healthier or waist-friendly is up for question. "It personifies food and makes it more endearing and doesn't have the negative connotation that the word 'diet' has," says a consumer-research psychologist and professor. It allows for guilt-free indulgence as part of a maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The co-founder of SkinnyPop (pictured above, center) uses the word 'skinny' to give the impression of "few ingredients, better-for-you and a lifestyle".
We took a look at the "Multigrain Skinny Buns" (pictured above, right) and compared them to Oroweat's "Healthy Multigrain" sliced bread. The nutrition facts of one bun and one slice of bread are nearly identical. The difference is only one gram of sugar, one gram of protein, and 5 mg of sodium. That means you could make a sandwich on a whole skinny bun (top and bottom) or make half of a sandwich (one slice of bread) and the result would be essentially the same. Not to mention, the buns list "enriched wheat flour" at the top of their ingredient list while the bread lists "whole wheat flour". You know what that means... The buns are not actually whole wheat but the multigrain bread is!
'Healthy' is another term to consider. A study published in this month's International Journal of Obesity looked at how much people eat according to the label "healthier". They found that people served up a larger portion of 'healthier' coleslaw than the "regular" coleslaw even though both versions were the same number of calories. People also felt less guilty about having the 'healthier' version, which would explain the larger portions.
The take-away message:
The words "skinny" and "healthy" are just terms that are being used to try and get us to buy into a product. Don't give these products special treatment and assume they are what they say they are. Look at the label as you would any other product and see what about it is different from the "regular" version. When we become aware of the words that surround us in the grocery aisles, we can then decipher for ourselves what is "healthy" and what is trying to be.
Related: "Reading a Food Label", "Controlling Portion Size"
Articles referenced: Advertising Age, "How 'Skinny' Became the Hottest Phrase in Marketing" by E.J. Schultz and "People choose larger versions of 'healthy' food" by Keri Grens
Best Teen Diets recommends healthy well balanced eating that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and low-fat or fat-free dairy. We offer nutrition information for teens, parents and educators that emphasizes the importance of healthy eating for teens. For more information visit www.bestteendiets.org