sim·ple adj \ˈsim-pəl\ Having or composed of only one thing, element, or part. Not involved or complicated. Being without additions or modifications.
Simple foods are marketed as being better-for-you but because “simple” means nothing to the FDA (nor does “natural” or “all-natural”) the nutrition story behind these products is a bit more complex.
Just because a product is made with a few ingredients doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Case in point: If the ingredients are sugar, cream, butter, lard or salt, it’s hard to envision how you need more of those in your diet. Simple is a marketing gimmick to get you to buy–and eat–more! And, 99% of the time, foods marketing as “simple” are not in the same league as real healthy simple foods like fruits, veggies and whole grains.
Here are three of the best examples of “simple” marketing that reveals a more complex nutrition picture:
This new brand of Haagen-Dazs ice cream boasts “…crafted with only five ingredients for incredibly pure, balanced flavor…and surprisingly less fat!” is the best example of the unhealthy side of simple The five ingredients for the ginger flavor include: skim milk (good), cream (not-so-good), sugar (eek), and egg yolks (not great). A half-cup serving has 230 calories, 12 grams fat, 7 grams sat fat (more than one-third of your daily limit), one-quarter of your daily cholesterol allotment and 5 ½ teaspoons sugar.
According to the brand marketers, these refrigerated gems “…are made with the simple, wholesome ingredients you and your family know and love…” These ingredients are well known, yes, but not for being nutritional all-stars. The ingredients include refined wheat flour, sugar, eggs, chocolate chips and peanuts butter…” The upgrade to this product is that the ingredient list no longer contains high fructose corn syrup. Okay, that’s a plus. While I love a good cookie, but I don’t try to pass my homemade creations off as something nutritionally superior that I can feel good about.
A one-ounce of a Simply…Chocolate Chip cookie will set you back 150 calories, and has 8 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated fat) and 3 teaspoons sugar. No appreciable fiber, whole grains, vitamins or minerals. That’s no nutritional bargain compared to any other chocolate chip cookie.
Sara Lee Simple Sweets
Now, at least frozen desserts don’t give any aura of health and wellness, so I’m going to give them a break. Anyone buying frozen apple or cherry pies aren’t thinking about diet quality or calories. In fairness, what’s so simple about these desserts is that go from freezer to perfect pie in five minutes. If you have a slice of cherry pie, you’ll need to debit 330 calories from your calorie account, not to mention the 16 grams of fat (about one-quarter of what you need in a day) and 6 teaspoons sugar.
Simple Foods that Aren’t Dumb
If you want to simplify your diet to improve your health and lose a few pounds, shop for natural, single-ingredient foods like these:
- Fruits and veggies
- Whole grains
- Dried fruit
- Olive oil and other vegetable oils
- Nuts and seeds
- Skim milk
- Lean meats, fish and poultry
- Nonfat plain Yogurt
Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD