Food marketed as ‘healthy’ is fooling consumers: experts

DITCHING fad food trends such as protein balls, coconut oil and smoothies will help win the battle of the bulge.

With more than 60 per cent of Australian adults now overweight or obese, experts say people need to go back to basics and count calories, drop the fear of carbohydrates and stick to drinking water.

Western Sydney Local Health District allied health chair Professor Vicki Flood said many foods marketed as healthy are fooling people into gaining weight, including protein balls and shakes, toasted muesli, fruit juices and coconut water which can be packed with fat and sugar.

 

One expert revealed foods such as protein balls can be packed with fat and sugar. Picture: Supplied
One expert revealed foods such as protein balls can be packed with fat and sugar. Picture: Supplied

 

Fruit juices needed to be ditched to if people want to lose weight. Picture: Supplied
Fruit juices needed to be ditched to if people want to lose weight. Picture: Supplied

"I wouldn't recommend protein balls or protein drinks to anyone trying to lose weight, they can be calorie and energy dense with a lot of sugar from dried fruit, fats and protein," she said.

Prof Flood said coconut oil should be ditched for extra virgin olive oil, the only proven healthy oil.

She also advised against going gluten-free without medical need, with the substitutes often loaded with sugar for flavour.

Experts meet today at an obesity symposium as part of Westmead Hospital Week.

 

Western Sydney Local Health District allied health chair Professor Vicki Flood said many foods marketed as healthy are fooling people into gaining weight. Picture: John Appleyard
Western Sydney Local Health District allied health chair Professor Vicki Flood said many foods marketed as healthy are fooling people into gaining weight. Picture: John Appleyard

 

The hospital's chair of medicine Professor Jenny Gunton will present Swedish research showing the impact of weight on a person's chance of marriage, which found that by age 40 men are 50 per cent less likely to be married if they're obese and 17 per cent less likely if they're overweight.

"It would be the same in Australia - the larger you are the less likely you are to be married, if you're very large in your teens or early 20s that is the period of life when most people get married­," she said. "It's interesting because we usually don't think about weight affecting­ men's attractiveness until they get really big."

Prof Gunton urged people to learn to read labels and limit meals to 250 calories if they want to lose weight.

 

Teachers Gita Smith and Julie Zhang, go for a run in Centennial Park. Gita said she avoided “confusing” fads. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Teachers Gita Smith and Julie Zhang, go for a run in Centennial Park. Gita said she avoided “confusing” fads. Picture: Jonathan Ng

 

"The trick is for people to learn to substitute something that they enjoy eating with something less evil in terms of calories," Prof Gunton said.

"If you don't know how many calories are in something you eat … you should find out."

She advised against cutting carbohydrates entirely, arguing they are needed to prevent the body going into "starvation mode". Reducing food intake to smoothies or soups can also trigger starvation because it is "ejected" from the stomach rapidly and leads to more hunger.

Teacher Gita Smith, 30, who exercises regularly, said she avoids "confusing" fads.

"It's about making healthier food choices rather than being on a diet," she said.



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