I wrote a piece a few months back about food bloggers and dietitians being sponsored to promote products. You can read about it here. While I am not a famous dietitian (or blogger for that matter) I didn’t receive much feedback or commentary. No problem. I'll just keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last 5 years. If my piece gets noticed, so be it. I know that I have a few followers that do read the blog and for that, I’m grateful. The reward for me is educating people and I hope through my blog I’m able to show people that healthy can taste delicious…I think my pictures are proof.
The background on my last piece is in regards to food bloggers and dietitians alike being paid sponsors for products. Social media in the last couple of years has paid attention to certain marketing techniques (pun intended) and this is the new wave of how advertising is going. A popular food blogger will write a quick blurb promoting said product in a cute fashion and somewhere in this blurb will need to use the hashtag #ad #sponsored These hashtags are used to readily make the public aware that they are being paid to say this. But in my mind I would believe that this food blogger might just believe in this product if they are being paid to sponsor it…or do they? Not all food bloggers are dietitians. And even though they may not know the science behind whether a food is healthy or not they do have the power to influence their followers to buy the product. Hence why companies are using this technique. I readily admit to being prey to this said tactic. Enter chocolate covered hemp seeds. Probably never would’ve bought them until I saw them used as a garnish and thought…I have to have them! Spoiler alert – I did not have to have them.
On the flip side there are some food bloggers that are dietitians. This is where in lies the problem (in my humble opinion). There are dietitians promoting products, ambassadors if you will, that are not healthy. If I were an unsuspecting consumer that saw a semi-famous dietitian (just checked one dietitian’s followers right now – 54,000 – there are obviously some with more or less, but holy smokes that’s a lot of people seeing what she posts. Not to mention she recently promoted a sugar substitute that is now listed on CSPI’s “red” list – Chemical cuisine). Talk about an ethical issue…#amIright?? All the work that I do to promote actual education to the community all down the drain by one single post that now confuses the community to think that a sugar substitute is healthy. All because she’s getting paid. Hmpf. My job has gotten that much more difficult. I was approached by a couple of companies a few years back and I’ll be honest, I turned them down. Sure I was enticed by the money. But it’s too hard to keep up with all the products they may produce and at the end of the day I didn’t want all my allegiance going to any company. My allegiance is to educating and remaining unbiased. But the truth is, money talks. Dietitians need to be paid more as a profession. I’m all for entrepreneurship and making something of yourself. I am not for being paid to represent a product that isn’t healthy just to say how to use it in some recipe which then confuses people to wonder is it healthy or not?
At the end of the day patients do request for certain brands so that they can know what to buy while in the store. I’ll say it again and again and again, it’s more about the education of the nutrition label than it is the actual brand because whether you’re in San Diego, CA shopping at Von’s or you’re here in Miami, FL shopping at Publix you should be able to know what to buy simply by looking at the ingredient list. If you need help Navigating The Supermarket, we offer store tours (for free!). Take a look to see the upcoming tours in both Dade and Broward county!
The following are products that I use in my kitchen – no I am not sponsored and these are not ads. It’s just what I eat. And while this might seem like a product endorsement, I like to see it as I discussed, a teaching moment. Read on to see what I say about the items and again, forget the brand, buy whichever brand you want that fits the bill of what I describe.
Whole Grains. Brown Rice. Whole Wheat Flour. Oats. Barley. & more! Hard to believe that quinoa is now considered “old”. But the truth is that recently other whole grains have started to gain ground in popularity. I wouldn’t say they’ve gotten as popular as quinoa did, but I do believe that people are starting to try new whole grains out. I myself just recently purchased wheat berries. And while wheat berries are simply a whole wheat kernel, I’ve never tried it. I won’t take it as far to grind these berries into my own whole wheat flour (because you can), but suffice it to say I too am experimenting with different whole grains. Variety really is the spice of life. The most common response I hear is that people don’t know how to cook these grains (or rather they don’t always turn out just right). The truth is they do cook similar as you would brown rice. These whole grains are going to be nuttier, chewier, and earthier in taste as they are whole grains. So, find a recipe – hot or cold – that you’d like to try and see if you like them. Always remember, rotate and keep trying! Here’s a recipe to get you started.
I’ve still been on the search for a few more whole grain crackers. If you follow me on Instagram I’ve featured a few recently on my #TasteTestTuesday. I do ultimately want to make a homemade version, but until I do, here are a couple more that I’ve thrown into the mix and rotate through for my snacks or even a cheese board (shhh no one will know they’re healthy!)
This is the only flavor I have tried and that I can vouch for. Two ingredients: wheat bran and oat bran. I think you know what that means. Loads of fiber. You WILL go to the bathroom. If fiber is something you struggle with then these crackers will help. Just remember to drink water to help with the increase in fiber you’ll be ingesting. As for some of their marketing ploys – “appetite control” and “only 2g Net Carbs – I could do without. I guess you can’t call them healthy without appealing to the masses without using some kind of recent “fad” in the news. Me? I just call them #dietitianapproved and #notsponsored #justafan I simply aim to educate that with only 2 ingredients they’re a definite product to use!
This company makes a lot of different crackers, but they only have ONE that’s whole grain. They are light and airy and paper thin, but they really paired well on one of the cheese boards that I did recently with some of the soft cheeses. Options is what I say. Definitely starting to get a slew of whole wheat crackers that I feel confident about and that I can rotate through. And yes, I will still try to make some homemade, but in the mean time you can call me lazy…or maybe just resourceful.
The dairy aisle is/can be daunting. I’m not going to discuss some of the controversies with dairy in general here on the blog today. Rather I’m going to show you two products that are #dietitianapproved.
The first is a lower sugar option yogurt. Yogurt these days can almost be considered dessert depending on the amount of added sugar they’ve included. Chobani finally came up with a version that has minimal added sugar (probably to rival Siggis brand. Although on a side note, Siggis now manufactures a version that really has no added sugar, however, it is 4% milkfat. If you take sugar out, nine times out of 10 you add fat back in. Animal fat that I choose not to ingest due to familial hypercholesterolemia). They need to adapt to the new label and tell you how much added sugar there really is, but for now this new “Hint” variety is their best version and your best version to transition to less sugar. Because if you were able to see how much added sugar were in their “Flips” you’d realize it’s dessert. The truth is my ultimate recommendation is to aim for plain yogurt and add your own fruit in. I use non-fat yogurt and either add in some actual nuts for crunch or stir in some nut butters for some plant-based healthy fats. I should’ve taken an after picture to show you how pretty the blackberries looked after I smashed them. Next time.
People are realizing that nut butters are healthy for them as they are a source of protein with healthy fats (source is from a plant and not an animal). However, companies are adding in either trans fat to make the nut butter solid and/or sugar to sweeten their product. Why can’t we leave well enough alone? I know people complain about stirring the nut butters, but the truth is the moment they’ve added “partially hydrogenated oils” into the mix I feel there went the health component and why are you even eating the product? I was at the store yesterday and saw this brand (remember who cares about the brand, just using this as an example.)
|Do NOT buy!! This picture is ONLY for educational purposes. Read below.|
They were right next to each other and neither one is one I would recommend to buy. I am showing the picture for educational purposes only. Companies are trying to steer away from labeling their product with “partially hydrogenated oil” but instead using “palm oil”. As if palm oil is healthier? Um, no. If you want to read more about palm oil and the reasons why not to use it, check out what CSPI had to say here. If you're concerned about how it effects the environment there’s a whole report about that here.
I shouldn’t assume but I do think it’s safe to say in this situation that the average consumer would grab the “Bare Smooth” making the connotation that if it is bare then it doesn’t have anything added to it. WRONG. They added palm fruit oil in. Can we just leave well enough alone and keep it to just one ingredient? Almonds plain and simple. Is that too difficult? Stay aware and watch that ingredient list. Moving on.
Tuna in a package. Another example of what should be something simple to buy that isn’t. I looked at a few different options that are sold in the stores and what you’re aiming for is no added flavors. Once they start calling them “Creations” they’re adding in way too many additives that you should have more control over. One brand even used MSG – which some people are sensitive to. It takes a little more work, but go ahead and add in your own spices. I use a little mustard to make it creamy (so that I use less mayonnaise) and if I have it, I’ll even mash up avocado to give it some flavoring. I cannot promise that it will look Instagram worthy, but the taste? Out of this world. I’ve even been known to make it completely Mediterranean in flavor and only use olive oil and red wine vinegar (as well as sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, red pepper, and cucumber). The sky is the limit, but definitely aim for plain when it comes to tuna so you can have the control.
Spiralizers are still having their moment. But who wants to add another gadget/appliance to their kitchen? Not me. I don’t have enough space for that. Although I was just gifted a really tiny hand-held spiralizer that definitely does the trick on zucchini. Sweet potatoes, not so much. I think making food attractive can be helpful in people trying new foods. I am not for zoodles taking over the world and replacing them as carbs at a meal (that’s a topic for another day), but I am for including more non-starchy vegetables. Enter these frozen options (there were a few companies in the store, I happened to take this brand’s photo). I’ve noticed them fresh and in the produce area, but the truth is they are super expensive if you buy them fresh. This frozen version was well within reason for cost based on amount and I’ve even seen them as a BOGO (buy one get one free) deal. So keep your eyes peeled and stock up on a few of these if you don’t own a spiralizer and have been wanting to try them out.
My job as a dietitian is to educate people on how to make better food choices with the ultimate goal of helping people become healthier. It’s a hard job to do with so many food options available, not to mention sifting through all the marketing confusion. As a dietitian I don't want to be a part of the confusion. Promoting a product and being sponsored by a food company might seem like a good way to bring in a few extra dollars to some, but to me that only creates even more confusion for the consumer. I'll continue doing #TasteTestTuesday and showing different products on the market that are #dietitianapproved. I'm NOT being sponsored and it's definitely NOT an ad, it's just me doing my job as a dietitian, promoting health and awareness.