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When healthy snacks are not healthy...

16 Mar 2015 12:42 PM - Read the nutrition panels and ingedient lists...
Roasted coconut chips
Vitamin chewing gum

In both my corporate speaking and my one-on-one naturopathic consultations I am frequently asked questions about healthy snacking and what makes a good healthy snack. 

When we go to the supermarket we are bombarded with all sorts of colourful and bold statements on the front of packages that would have us believe these products are good for us.

I recently came across some new products which I am sure the manufacturers would like you to believe are healthy options and, as a naturopath who wants you to be healthy and vital, I just felt compelled to write about them.

Here are a couple of examples of what I consider to be questionable “healthy” products:

Roasted coconut chips

Sounds healthy right? Coconut…we think of it as a fruit. It should be full of fibre, it’s not too sweet and it sounds like it would make a nice, healthy snack when we get an attack of the munchies.

Well, take a look at the ingredients. You would expect coconut to be the first ingredient (i.e. the most predominant in the packet). Heck, you might even expect coconut to be the ONLY ingredient but you’d be wrong.

In fact, coconut is the first listed ingredient but it makes up only 70% of the contents. So what on earth could be the other 30% you ask? Hmmm…how about sugar and then sodium metabisulphite (better known as preservative 223).

So maybe not such a healthy snack after all...especially when you can buy regular coconut flakes with nothing else added.

Vitamin enriched chewing gum

I was at a triathlon on the weekend (for the record, I was watching, not participating) and they were handing out chewing gum enriched with vitamins so, being an inquisitive naturopath, naturally I had to check it out.

Here’s what you find when you have a look at the fine print.

Three of the first four ingredients are sugar substitutes (sorbitol, maltitol and maltitol syrup) and it also has sweeteners 955 (aka sucralose) and 961 (aka neotame which is similar to aspartame). But it is promoted as “sugar free”.

Then you look at the vitamin content…after all that’s the point of it surely.

For the most part they don’t tell you what form each vitamin takes.  (Most vitamins and minerals come in a variety of different forms, each of which is slightly different in how they are metabolised and absorbed in your digestive tract).

But in reality, it might not matter too much because the amounts are so small (especially when you compare them to a practitioner brand vitamin supplement) that they are really inconsequential.

If your diet is such that it isn’t meeting your nutritional demands, this chewing gum is unlikely to make a difference to your health.

I guess if you love your chewing gum this might be better than some others but please don’t fall for the trap of thinking that you are getting any kind of nutritional value out of this gum.

So, what’s the bottom line when it comes to healthy foods?

Read the nutrition panels and ingredient lists.  Do they REALLY support the implied benefits of your chosen product?  Would you be better off with an alternative that might also be less expensive?

If you want more information, you might enjoy:


And if you have any other examples of questionable “healthy” products, let me know. I’d love to see them. Together we can help people make better food choices and spend their money more wisely.


Yours in good health


Kaye Wright
Melbourne CBD

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