by Marion Nestle
Oct 12 2012

The latest in dietetic junk food

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) has just concluded its annual meeting and exhibition.

I was unable to attend but colleagues have been sending photos and giving me products or other objects collected at the exhibition.  This exhibition is always worth a look.  It typically features displays by food companies (Big Food and small) giving away samples of what I love to call “dietetic junk foods” in order to encourage dietitians to recommend them to clients.

Thanks to my NYU colleague, Lisa Sasson, for alerting me to these entertaining examples.

First: sugar-supplemented Stevia:

Next: The National Confectioners Association has a handy guide to moderate candy consumption:

Then: Frito-Lay (owned by PepsiCo) ‘s new Gluten-Free chips.

Potato chips did not ever contain gluten, but never mind.   They remind me of products offered during the low-carb craze a few years ago, like the ones I photographed when working on What to Eat in 2005.

Eat healthfully and enjoy the weekend!

  • I was not there, but it was so sad to hear that those big companies funding AND

  • chuck

    this is the precise reason The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics cannot be taken seriously. they are influenced way too much by junk food companies.

  • Here’s a great pic from the conference; “The Coke Foundation…Supporting the Registered Dietitian.” By the way, why does the Dietitian in the Coke advertisement have a stethoscope around their neck? Holding yourself out as a medical professional is a crime without proper licencing. The ADA of all people should know that, ADA state boards threaten others with jail time for not having proper “dietetic credentials” to practice nutrition.

  • Margeretrc

    Junk food is junk food, dietetic or not. And that Crisco oil is junk, too. No low carber I know would touch that stuff, now or ever. The fact that the company was jumping on the low carb bandwagon of the time doesn’t mean real low carbers bought it or ate it. We’ve known for a long time that vegetable oils are not something we want to use for anything but (perhaps) motor oil. That said, there was (and is) a lot of pretty awful junk manufactured for and consumed by some low carbers. Most of us now, however, are about real food, not junk. I certainly am.

  • As someone married to someone who suffers from celiac disease, I can assure you that seeing “gluten-free” chips means a lot. Yeah, there’s no reason that chips SHOULD have gluten in them, but making that assumption has gotten any number of celiac sufferers laid up in bed or near the toilet as a result. Aside from added ingredients, there are working conditions that lead to cross contamination (shared lines with other products, etc), so unless we see a GF claim or get one in writing from the company, we’d avoid the product.

  • KE

    haha..the gluten free chips reminds me of when the atkins diet first became popular; supermarkets would advertise “pepperoni slices with 0 carbs!”

  • I didn’t make it past the Guide to Moderate candy eating.

    I’d love to get a copy so I can frame it.

  • Margeretrc

    @KE, it’s very possible for pepperoni to have a few carbs, actually. Many brands and types of processed meats have added sugar, so that “0 carb” claim was and is not as funny as it sounds. That said, the processed food industry will jump on any bandwagon that comes along and gluten free and low sugar are the latest buzz words, I guess. Better to stick to real food–you can’t go wrong with that. Grain free is the best and easiest way to stay gluten free! Get your vitamins, minerals and fiber from vegetables and fruit. Easy peasy.

  • It’s always fascinated me how marketers spin the pros and cons of all this processed food. I love calling them out on it. The more we stand up to them and say ‘Yah but…..’ the better. Thanks for your post.

  • ETaddison

    Yeah, but it’s all low-fat.

    It thought that’s what everyone thought was healthy. That’s what the ‘dietitians’ always promote. Low fat. Cut the fat. Cut the meat, Cut the saturated fat.

    What’s wrong with this stuff?

  • The millennial generation will change the food system for the better. The processed food industry knows this, and is scared. They’re scared because the millennials aren’t brand loyal, and don’t trust Big Food so the general mills, and kafts of the world will lose out if they don’t change.
    Here’s an article about the millennial generation

  • Have a look at the Parks and Recreation take on banning Soda, it’s on point AND hilarious.

    And I agree, how to you recommend a ‘daily serving’ of confectionary? Ridiculous!

  • Pingback: make your choice count | Of Moods and Modes()

  • I am the president of the National Confectioners Association, the association that represents the candy and chocolate industry and the association that published the Moderation Guide posted above. You may describe it (derisively) as entertaining and promoting junk food, but not one of dieticians – who are food and nutrition experts – had that kind of reaction. The dieticians who attended the conference appreciated industry efforts at defining moderate candy consumption and enjoyed the small serving of candy included with the Guides. Most nutritionists agree that there is a role for candy in happy, healthy life and have asked us to produce this kind of material to help them educate their clients. The fact is that candy can fit into a good diet- it’s a fun food and a small indulgence. I’m surprised, Ms. Nestle, that you would poke fun at a serious effort to promote moderation.

  • Marion, I like your term: “dietetic junk food”. The food industry is going to be booming with “healthy snacks” in wrappers for years to come.

    Oh how I wish the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had put the word ‘food’ in their new name. 🙂

    I know you have a good perspective on eating, but I wanted to respond to some of the comments here. I always get a kick out of comments that suggest someone “never eats” something (no vegetable oil? Do you use butter or bacon fat exclusively? Do you not cook? Do you eat only raw food? Do you never eat out?).

    People eat. Dietitians work with all kinds of people (all ages, all genders, all races, all backgrounds) and no two people have the same habits or preferences. But they do have needs – some of them medical, some personal, both important. It’s part of our job to assess what they’re eating, and we need to stay on top of new foods on the market to do so. There’s plenty of food technology that really helps us out. And nobody is going to stop people from wanting convenience foods. I’m an RD, but I’m also human. I have my own preferences, but eat a balanced diet. I cook for my family, my husband grows a garden, but sometimes I bake a cake, pie, or a few dozen cookies as a treat for all of us.

    So when folks glance at the above image from the NCA, they may make the judgement that there is absolutely no room for sweets in a healthy diet. To me, a healthy diet is one full of the nutrients you need to maintain health, but also full of foods and beverages that you enjoy consuming.

    Halloween is on its way. We’ll all eat some candy. It’s okay. We should be aware of how much though, and get our eyeballs used to knowing what a reasonable portion of candy looks like.

  • Suzanne

    @Larry Graham – I don’t delude myself that when I have a serving of candy that it’s a fun food. It’s a food that I know will make my blood sugar escalate, will facilitate fat gain, and will lessen my feelings of satiety I maintain through the use of a high fat, low carbohydrate way of eating.

    Getting fat, sick, and feeling famished when I’ve adequately fed myself are NOT fun. They are self-destructive and to be avoided.

  • M., Student, Future RD

    I agree with Roseanne wholeheartedly. While there is no doubt that dietitians would like overall dietary patterns in the U.S. to change for the better by incorporating more vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and lean proteins, we don’t delude ourselves into thinking that everyone will look at the candy bowl on Halloween and think, “I shouldn’t eat that – it’s going to lessen my feelings of satiety!”

    Think about it. These are people who would buy an extra bag of candy just for the house and eat it all before trick-or-treating even starts. Deprivation of a food can and does lead to binging later if that’s the food they really want. It’s the dietitian’s job to take these behaviors, suggest replacements (a snack-sized pouch of M&M’s followed by chewing gum, for instance), and slowly start to incorporate healthier behaviors instead (a snack-sized pouch of M&M’s once per week/month instead of once each day).

    Would we prefer that Big Food keep their unusually large noses out of other peoples’ business? Of course. Do we expect it to happen anytime soon? Unlikely.

    I personally haven’t been pleased with all of the endorsements the Academy has taken in the past. In fact, many RDs I know have been very vocal about certain instances, like when an advertisement for Mars candy bars appeared in a Journal of the American Dietetic Association issue a year or so back. This is why I have such an issue with someone (like “chuck” from above) writing off all RDs for being connected to these endorsements. The Academy isn’t perfect, but it does have a fantastic evidence analysis library, and the vast majority of its members have extensive schooling towards what aspects of diet are there to make us live healthy happy lives (all of which can vary depending on our relative disease states and economic statuses).

    For the vast majority of people, completely cutting out all junk food is unrealistic. If they ask which items are better choices, we’re gonna tell them – all while giving them the caveat that an even better choice would be an apple or carrot.