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    Archive for the ‘candy’ Category

    And The Award For Most Ridiculous Serving Size Goes To…

    24whirlyEarlier this afternoon I stumbled upon Economy Candy, a candy store in New York City’s Lower East Side.

    Although relatively small in size, the store offers an array of sweets, from ’70s classics to chocolate halva to Coldstone Creamery jelly candies.

    In one corner, a colorful display of medium-sized “whirly pops” caught my eye.

    They were your standard rainbow swirl lollipops (that swirl can be quite hypnotic, by the way!).

    I grabbed one, turned it around, and could not believe the nutrition label.

    The serving size for this single-serve three-ounce lollipop?  One-third of a piece!

    Ridiculous!  It is times like these when the Food & Drug Administration’s serving reference amounts do the public no favors (per FDA labeling rules, one serving of candy is equal to one ounce, regardless of how the item is meant to be consumed.)

    In 1994, the FDA no longer allowed manufacturers to determine serving sizes.  While uniformity among different brands and products was a smart move, the FDA claims their serving reference amounts “reflect the amounts people actually eat” (and drink).

    I beg to differ, especially when it concerns items clearly sold — and meant to be consumed — as single-serve items (like three-ounce lollipops or 20-ounce bottles of soda).


    You Ask, I Answer: Gummy Bear Food Label

    Here’s a mystery for you.

    I am looking at a bag of Haribo gummy bears. According to the food label, there are 3 grams of protein per serving.

    How can that be? I thought candy was just sugar?

    — Marilyn (last name withheld)
    New York, NY

    I sought out a bag of these gummy bears and immediately looked at the ingredient list: “corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, dextrose, citric acid, starch, artificial and natural flavors, fractionated coconut oil, carnauba wax, beeswax coating, artificial colors: Yellow 5, Red 10, Blue 1.”

    The answer to your question comes courtesy of the third ingredient — gelatin.

    Remember, gelatin is made from the jelly-like protein substance that remains after dissolving animal tendons, ligaments, skin, and bones in boiling water. Consequently, gelatin is approximately 85% protein.

    All gelatin is animal-derived. “Vegetarian candies”, meanwhile, use plant-based thickeners.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    In 2007, Masterfoods USA– a division of Mars, Inc. — spent $ 100 million advertising M&M’s chocolate candies in “offline” media (AKA everything except the Internet).

    That’s actually a pretty standard expense for the top candy and chocolate manufacturers!

    Meanwhile, the Five A Day campaign (advocating the consumption of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day) had a $4 million advertising budget to spread their message across the United States in 2004.

    By the way, that campaign was relaunched in 2007 after 15 years under the name “More Matters.”

    Rather than focus on one set number, consideration is given to individual guidelines based on varying calorie levels (some people only require four servings a day, while others should be getting eleven.)

    This campaign’s annual advertising budget? $3.5 million.

    SOS, anyone?


    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to the latest Federal Trade Commission figures, food and beverage companies spent a total of $ 492 million in 2006 to advertise soda to children between the ages of 2 and 17.

    That is a higher advertising budget than Apple Computers’!

    Candy and gum advertising in 2006, you ask? Oh, in the $500 – $550 million range.

    Meanwhile, the Five A Day campaign, which promoted eating five servings of vegetables on a daily basis, spent slightly less than $10 million in advertising the year before.

    We are all susceptible to marketing, especially children. If something looks “cool,” they will want it.

    Yes, that even applies to healthy foods. Remember the Dancing Raisins from the 1980s?

    I sure do — it seemed every commercial break from Captain Planet had those raisins in it! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I have provided an image with this post.

    The clay-animated spots clearly worked. The California Raisin Board credits that campaign for increasing raisin sales by ten percent.


    In The News: An Odd Solution

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports that skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates in India are leaving citizens looking for healthier alternatives to mithai — “sweet, fudgy goodies rich with cardamom, pistachio and saffron… eagerly eaten, given as gifts, [or] offered to the gods]” during annual Diwali celebrations.

    Partially due to an improved economy, many Hindus are opting to replace the sugary treats with clothes, electronics, and jewelry.

    Two interesting points stand out here.

    Number one: sales of sugar-free mithai are improving.

    Number two: the government has taken action by releasing “millions of tons of sugar into the markets… in a bid to drive down prices.”

    As you may imagine, both of these developments leave me shaking my head.

    First of all, sugar-free varieties of candies are not necessarily lower in calories.

    The overwhelming majority of sugar-free candies contain higher amounts of fat than their standard counterparts, often times resulting in mere 10 or 20 calorie differences.

    Remember, whereas sugar adds 4 calories per gram, fat contribues 9 calories per gram.

    Of course, the average consumer is not aware of this, and often finds themselves thinking they can eat more simply because sugar is absent. Not quite.

    And lastly, why on Earth is the government’s solution providing more sugar at lower prices?

    If a large percentage of the country is concerned about obesity and diabetes, cheapening sugary food is not the optimal solution!

    Why not look into long-term policy that can begin to address some of the population’s needs (for instance, calorie labeling)?


    Numbers Game: Answer

    Satisfy your sweet tooth with a regular Blow Pop rather than a 2.2 ounce (standard vending machine size) bag of Skittles and save 182 calories.

    A regular Blow Pop — and all other similarly sized lollipops for that matter — clocks in at 68 calories, while the Skittles bag provides 250!

    What’s most interesting is that it takes more time to savor and finish those 68 calories than to simply “follow the rainbow” and munch away.

    Lollipops are not oranges, apples, or bananas, but they are a decent replacement for anyone with a sweet tooth looking to cut back on calories and stay way from sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners.

    NOTE: Sadly, many lollipops — including Blow Pops — contain high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring.

    So, even if they are a lower-calorie (and longer-lasting) sweet treat, I don’t feel entirely okay downright “recommending” them.

    Luckily, a more “back to basics” version has been developed by YummyEarth — their lollipops are available at Whole Foods as well as Amazon.com.


    Numbers Game: A Sucky Calorie Cutting Tip

    Satisfy your sweet tooth with a regular Blow Pop rather than a 2.2 ounce (standard vending machine size) bag of Skittles and save _______ calories.

    a) 76
    b) 115
    c) 153
    d) 182

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Sunday for the answer.


    You Ask, I Answer: Dried Cranberries

    [I just read your posting on apple butter and had a question about] dried cranberries.

    Are they any good for you because I was reading the nutritional info and it just seems like carbs!

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    All fruits, except for avocados, are basically pure carbohydrate.

    I say basically because some might offer 0.2 or so grams of protein.

    The fact that fruit is made exclusively of carbohydrates does not make it unhealthy or a bad choice.

    When you eat a piece of fruit (not drink fruit juice or have gummy candy “with fruit” or eat fruit-flavored sherbet), you are consuming fiber, naturally occurring sugars, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

    The word “carb” became akin to a curse word because it erroneously equated “empty carbohydrates”, which are void of any nutrition (think donuts, cookies, and Goldfish crackers), with truly nourishing ones like oats, quinoa, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables.

    It is interesting that you point out dried fruit, though, as it can be a bit tricky to decipher.

    On one hand, raisins — essentially grapes tha have been sunbathing for too long without UV protection — are a very nutritious snack.

    They are a good source of potassium, selenium, and iron, and offer fiber mainly in the form of inulin.

    Cranberries run into a problem, though. When dried (i.e.: become Craisins), they become so tart that sucrose (table sugar) must be added.

    And we’re not talking a light sprinkling.

    In turn, they become more candy-like and lose some of their awesomely healthy fruit properties.

    If dried fruit is your choice of snack, reach for naturally sweet options like raisins, dried mangoes, dried apples, and dates (dried figs), which rely on their naturally-occurring sweetness to satisfy your sweet tooth.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    Just in time for Halloween: which of the following fun-size treats provides the least calories?

    a) Three Musketeers
    b) Skittles

    c) Snickers

    d) Milky Way

    The answer? Three Musketeers.

    One fun-size piece of this candy bar provides 63 calories.

    The rest? Milky Way’s fun-size delivers 75 calories, a fun-size bag of Skittles clocks in at 80, and the smallest of all Snickers bars adds 99 calories to your day.

    Missing a chocolatey coating, Skittles are by far the lowest in fat (.75 grams and 0 grams of saturated fat), but make up those calories by containing more sugar than the three sweet competitors.

    Even among its chocolate friends, the Three Musketeers prevail. A fun-size Milky Way packs 2 grams of saturated fat, Snickers is a close second with 1.8 grams, while the three amigos manage a not-so-bad 1.3 grams.

    This might surprise you, but, in my opinion, the worst treat to overindulge in on Halloween night is a virtually fat-free one like Skittles.

    The absence of fat (and, obviously, protein and fiber) don’t help us feel full, thereby make it easier to overeat and consume a large number of calories.

    Candies with slightly higher fat contents can help you feel full in lower quantities.


    Numbers Game: Pick Your Treat

    Just in time for Halloween: which of the following fun-size treats provides the least calories?

    a) Three Musketeers
    b) Skittles

    c) Snickers

    d) Milky Way

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer!


    You Ask, I Answer: Fruit Juice Concentrate

    I bought some gummy bears the other day. The label said, “Made with real fruit juice!” I looked at the back and the only ingredient that came close to that was “apple juice concentrate.” What is that?

    — Joanne Lubek
    Berlin, Germany

    Oh, the things manufacturers can get away with on their food labels!

    Fruit juice concentrate is the result of taking all the water out of fruit juice and then adding sugar to whatever is left behind. It is, simply put, an added sugar (not a natural one, like you would get from biting into an actual apple).

    I always find it funny when manufacturers put “nutritious” statements on food that isn’t supposed to be healthy. Even if a gummy bear is made with fruit juice, it is still candy.

    Why do we need to assuage our guilt? It is perfectly OK to eat gummy bears not made with real fruit juice, as long as they are an occasional treat and you don’t eat the whole bag.


    Food for Thought: Nutritious Candy (Really)

    Last weekend, the Institute of Food Technologists held a conference in Chicago, where a variety of new and innovative food products were unveiled for approximately 20,000 attendees.

    Some of the biggest buzz comes courtesy of candy with added vitamins and minerals in it. It’s set to be all the rage in 2008. Expect to see young Hollywood starlets chewing on some in the pages of Us Weekly soon.

    I read about this conference over at CNN’s website, where Caleb Hellerman (senior producer of CNN’s Medical Unit show, for which Dr. Sanjay Gupta — who I think CNN considers a deity — is chief medical correspondent) opines:

    Worthless, a prominent nutrition expert told me, although he didn’t want his name used. I’m not sure I agree. Of course it would be healthier to eat a complete diet, full of vegetables, but who has the time? Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that barely 1 percent of children and teenagers meet government guidelines for a healthy diet. Neither they nor I were surprised.

    “If my kids are munching on candy anyway, is it really so bad if it’s giving them their RDA at the same time? Is there a healthy food product you would like to see on the shelves?”

    Oh, Caleb… where to start?

    Of course it would be healthier to eat a complete diet, full of vegetables, but who has the time?”

    I wasn’t aware that opening a bag of baby carrots or popping cherry tomatoes into your mouth was a time consuming activity. Regardless, if we’re talking about candy (and, therefore, sweetness) why don’t we talk about nature’s candy — fruit.

    There is no way I am going to believe that peeling a banana, eating blueberries, or biting into an apple is something people just can’t seem to find the time to do.

    “If my kids are munching on candy anyway, is it really so bad if it’s giving them their RDA at the same time?”

    As much as I like to break nutrition down and make it an accessible topic for everyone, it’s not fair to break it down as being just about vitamins and minerals.

    Yes, vitamins and minerals are important, and we all need them. However, nutrition goes beyond that.

    First of all, if we are talking about the prospect children being allowed to eat more candy because it’s nutritious, we need to think about implications.

    What happens when that child grows up? A young palate accustomed to high amounts of sugar will very likely continue these eating patterns well into adulthood.

    And while it’s fine and dandy that these Gummi Bears will contains vitamins and minerals, they are still lacking the fiber and phytonutrients present in fruit.

    I am not advocating for children to have sugar banned from their diets. Part of being a kid is looking forward to an ice cream cone every Saturday night or getting to share some M&M’s with a little brother or sister whenever the family goes to a movie.

    However, this “nutrification” of candy is dangerous because it takes junk food away from the “occasional treat” category and places it in the “hey, why not, at least it has vitamin C” category.

    Currently, if a parent is making a lunchbox for little Sarah and wants a nutritious snack, she’ll pack some trail mix with raisins over a bag of Gummi Bears. It has a hint of sweetness, and, along with vitamins and minerals, offers fiber and antioxidants.

    I’m afraid that vitamin-fortified candy will become acceptable as a snack at any time since it has added value.

    Not to mention, if these Gummi Bears are anything like Diet Coke Plus (“Diet Coke with vitamins!”) they’ll contain the exact same vitamin and mineral combination that, by law, has to be present in all breads. In other words, they aren’t offering anything you can’t get anywhere else.

    As soon as I read this story, I headed over to Marion Nestle’s blog, knowing she surely had an opinion about this, which she does (and I completely agree with):

    Candy is candy. If candy is organic or is laced with vitamins or substances that promote health, at least under laboratory conditions, it still has sugary calories.

    Say no more.


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