Monday, February 04, 2008

Yeah? Compared to What?

Since its inception, The Blue Menu from President's Choice has sorta upset me, but my unease has been amorphous. Until today and the two bite brownies.

I always knew that the Blue Menu from President's Choice had to be at least a little bullshit. They talk a good game, right. More of: fibre, more omega-3. Lower: calories, sodium, fat. I'm not going to argue that.*

The website sets out their mandate: "Our great tasting PC Blue Menu products offer healthier options without sacrificing the flavours you love. The big blue menu on the front of each package shouts out why the product is a better choice so that making better choices is simple!"

Yeah, if your choice is other Two-Bite Brownies, for sure. The Blue Menu version is really pretty low in fat, considering - 54 calories from fat, which is less than 10% of recommended daily fat for a 2000 cal/day diet.

This is, of course, assuming you eat one serving as defined by PC: two small brownies. They don't come in a package of two. They come in a package of about 12. Perhaps people who work for President's Choice are better at controlling themselves than I am.

What really gets me is that these fuckers are nearly 37% sugar - 14 g of a 38 g serving. That's a fuck of a lot of sugar. The USDA recommends no more than 32 g of sugar per day for a 2000 cal diet.** So if you're only going to eat just over 4 of those brownies per day, you'll be fine. If you only eat two and read the labels on every thing else you eat to watch for hidden sugar, you'll be fine. If you don't drink pop or alcohol on the same day as you eat that one serving of brownies, you'll be fine.

So fine, whatever, there's lots of sugar in brownies. That's hardly a surprise. And Loblaws isn't lying. These brownies are healthier than other brownies. But come on. Their marketing team must know how easily humans slide from "the healthier choice" to "the healthy choice" to just grabbing the blue package from the baked goods shelf, and eating treble the serving amount because Hey, lookit, they're low in fat, it's a miracle what they can do with food these days.

What pisses me off is this: the bastards must know that people will be total suckers for junk food they can eat and feel less guilty about. Chips will always turn a faster buck than tinned tomatoes. There is a lot of potentially healthy stuff in the Blue Menu - canned vegetables with less salt, steel cut oats, etc. etc. - but if they're honestly serious about healthier choices, why does the Blue Menu even have "Cookies and Crackers" or "Frozen Desserts"?

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I think Loblaws shouldn't sell Cookies or Crackers or Desserts. And I don't think people have to go on no sugar, no fat, no fun diets to eat well and stay healthy. I just think it's wrong when companies work to fool people into thinking that an item patently unhealthy for you might just be the opposite if it's got a blue label slapped over its sweet sweet face.

*This is because I'm leaving Soy Protein off the list. I don't get why it, in and of itself, is on the same level as, say, more fibre and lower sodium. Especially considering some of the recent brouhaha about soy products. But that is not the axe for grinding gripped tight in my hands right now.
**It's a bit more complicated than that, which is why I included the link. Check p. 36.


Tiana said...

I didn't see this on your blogroll so I'm going to assume you don't read it:

It's a local blog by a doctor that's pretty much about the kind of stuff in this post. I think it's great and think you might too.

Anonymous said...

I agree... You should read Michael Pollan's latest book entitled:

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto*

I liked his book "An Omnivore's Dilemma" and his take on sustainable food production (especially his big organic vs. local organic producer chapters) so I thought I'd give this one a try. He can be a little left leaning but he's fairly objective and supports his arguments with facts.

In his newest book he postulates that as the more obsessed we've become with calories, fats, sugars, proteins, etc. rather than looking at WHAT we are actually eating, the less healthy we've become. By appealing to an authority/expert rather than trusting our own common sense, its making us fatter.

As you said said, it's a brownie, common sense would tell me, if I am watching my weight I probably shouldn't eat too many, it'll be full of sugars and fat!

Not that I don't like having the nutritional information on the package, thats a plus as well, as long as you actually read it and make an informed choice, rather than let the marketing make the choice for you!

*notwithstanding your prior comment about anything with "manifesto" in its title ;-)

XUP said...

The big guys noticed that a lot of people were starting to get interested in living better, so they're all jumping on the bandwagon with their corporate organics, green stuff and healthy stuff. Where is PC getting all this organic stuff and how can they undersell by such a large margin real organic producers? Why is Javex buying Bert's Bees and what are they going to do with it? And what's the deal with WalMart's new "natural food" line?? Egads...

coyote said...

Hey ma'am. The only thing I've got to read here in chocklehead rehab is a discarded copy of that "healthy" PC Insider's Report, so I've been through it a few times.

How in hell did you miss the breaded macaroni and cheese nuggets -- in the MiniChefs line, especially for kids?

Not Blue Menu, but touted as a source of healthy calcium and iron. Since mac & cheese is pure fat and salt on a carbo carrier when prepared according to instructions, I'm guessing that breading and deep-frying it sorta magically negates that li'l problem... like two wrongs making a right.

Harmony said...

Coyote! Baby! How's jail? Any chocolate sighted?

Anonymous said...


This makes me a little crazy. CBC ran a piece the other night on the "heart & stroke" health check label on products. One would think the heart $ stroke uses the labels on products based on testing how that can of campbells soup compares to other soups, deeming it healthier...sound logical? well, it seems the companies buy that label. having that label has nothing to do with being healthier than other products, it's all money. and all the heart & stroke rep could say was "it's making people at least think about what they're buying". well it won't do poeple any good if the h & s are promoting a product that's bad for you, cus some corporation paid for it!
just had to share that.

Asteroidea Press said...

Thanks for the links and suggestions, everyone. It is a good site and I will read that book. Or at least add it to my pile.

The whole thing really is mind fucking boggling.

Was "a source of health calcium..." their wording? My bet is yes, and my bet is was very carefully no "A healthy source of calcium..." Grammar used for evil.

I heard that thing about H&S and nearly blew a gasket.

Anonymous said...

Hi Megan,

"That's a fuck of a lot of sugar."
I love that quote!!.

Eating one is like eating peanut butter and a jube jube together. It sticks to the roof of your mouth and to your teeth also. I think they should be sucked on not chewed.

If you check out most of the Blue Menu bakery items(cookies,muffins),you will notice they are using alot of natural sweeteners in stead of refined sugers. Its too bad they are using so much of it. I think they could have left out half of the sweeteners and it would have been excellent. Its great to see people reading the nutrional labels. The more you know the better choices you can make.

Take care,