The Packaging Pitch: Nutrition frustration
By Fresh Produce Marketing founder Lisa Cork
Okay, I'll come clean. Over the holidays I enjoyed the season a little more than I should have and as a result, have put on a couple of kilograms that I now really want to get rid of. Anyone else in the same situation?
I've been hearing for the last year or so about a range of diets that intrigued me, so I thought the new year was the perfect time to get a few books, do some reading and decide how I could change my diet and exercise plan to shift the extra kilos.
Given I only know enough about nutrition to be dangerous, reading these on trend diet books has made me feel like I have walked into a minefield. Let me explain.
One of the diets I was interested in was the Paleo diet. I have a girlfriend who has 'gone Paleo' and she's had amazing results. So I bought the book. If you've not heard or read of the Paleo diet, the basic premise is to eat:
- More fats like coconut oil, butter/ghee, beef fat and lard/bacon
- More protein and meat. Meat, seafood and other animal products represent the staple foods of the modern-day Paleo diets.
- Fewer carbohydrates. The diet recommends the consumption of non-starchy fresh fruits and vegetables to be the main source of carbohydrates.
- High fibre foods that come not from grains/legumes, but from non-starchy vegetables and fruits.
On the Paleo diet there are also exclusions, things you are not supposed to eat. These include:
- Dairy products
- Grains, for example wheat, rye, quinoa, oats, barley and more
- Legumes, for example kidney beans, chickpeas, peanuts and more
- Processed oils
- Refined sugars
- And neither alcohol nor coffee
Here is where I got confused.
For most of my life, I believed dairy products, grains and legumes were good for me…and fat was the baddie. I don't eat a lot of processed foods, but I do eat a lot of whole rolled oat porridge in winter, grain salads (rice, quinoa) in summer and I also eat lots of legumes. I believed legumes were a low-fat, good protein source and an option for replacing meat. However, the Paleo diet makes me question all my knowledge and it has given me pause to completely rethink what I eat.
So for now, let's call my Paleo diet confusion Exhibit A.
Now I want to talk about fruit. There is a range of diets out at the moment (The 21 Day Sugar Detox Diet, The Sugar Busters Diet) that explore sugar in-depth, including fructose, the fruit sugar. Like I noted at the beginning, I only know enough to be dangerous, but it is interesting to see diets recommending people stop eating fruit for a period of time in order to clear the body of sugar.
I don't have enough space to debate the merits of this thinking (for an interesting read, review this link), but what I am concerned about is the messaging and the confusion it is causing.
I am a college educated with a Master's Degree and I am interested in health and food. However, none of that seems to matter given the confusion of all this conflicting information.
Our industry has worked hard to talk about the benefits of fruits and now along comes an anti-sugar diet and fruit is off the menu? Yes, the diet goes on to add fruit back in…but hasn't the damage been done? Hasn't fruits' credibility as a fantastic health food been lost in the process?
Let me give you an example of the current diet information conflict that made me laugh.
I am doing some work with root vegetables, parsnips to be exact. Parsnips are an awesome veggie once you discover them, but they sit a bit unloved by the masses. On the Paleo diet, veggies like parsnips and cauliflower are to be eaten frequently because they are carbohydrate replacements; eating them in volume (instead of pasta or rice) is encouraged. So why am I laughing? Because parsnips, on the Sugar Busting diet, are a big no no – do not eat. And that about sums up the confusion and conflicting information I am talking about.
What does this have to do with packaging? For me, it is about being aware. There are something like 20 diets trending at the moment, so knowing whether your product is on the 'eat' or 'don't eat' list is important for you to know. It's one of the areas I research for all my clients as it can influence the packaging communication strategy we implement.
For example, with cauliflower, wouldn't it be interesting if you could sticker some heads of cauliflower with the words "Paleo Diet Approved" and see if you sold more of these ones versus normal cauliflower? From a labelling perspective, it is probably illegal, but it would be an interesting experiment.
So about those extra kilos, what have I decided to do? I decided that everything in moderation is probably not a bad diet to live by until I have time to sort through the conflicting information. I've also joined a gym and gone back to running and rowing. The lesson for me is, while lots of diets are around, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise and fruits and veg will likely do the trick every time.