Fruit juice, honey among no-nos - dietitian

Last updated 05:00 24/02/2012
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A muesli bar, glass of fruit juice and a honey sandwich - a healthy lunch, right?

Not according to an Otago University study that puts them on a list of 49 foods that everyone should avoid.

Research fellow and dietitian Jane Elmslie admitted many people might be surprised to see items such as muesli bars on the list, because they were often marketed as healthy.

But they were a processed food that was high in fat and sugar - and even more fattening than Toffee Pops, she said.

"Muesli bars are a classic example of how overweight people can be misled into thinking they're eating healthy food. In fact, most muesli bars are high in calories, and fat and sugar, with minimal nutritional value.

"Essentially, they are just another form of biscuit."

The list, drawn up by dietitians and clinical psychologists, labels the 49 items as non-essential, energy-dense and nutritionally deficient - or Neednt - foods.

Anything containing alcohol, saturated fat, added sugar, a large amount of energy relative to their essential nutrient value or that is prepared using a high-fat cooking method makes the list.

It suggests a healthier replacement for some items, or none at all for others. Some of the foods for which there is no easy low-energy replacement include icecream, cakes, chocolate, doughnuts, jam, honey, pies and pastries.

The list, compiled using resources from the National Heart Foundation, Canterbury District Health Board and Diabetes New Zealand, suggests that the 49 foods undermine patients' attempts at weight loss, while contributing little in terms of nutrients.

"Many people struggle to know what to eat if they have a weight problem," Dr Elmslie said.

"The advice out there is often complicated and contradictory. It can be quite difficult to understand the relevance of health-related product endorsements and the information on food labels."

The study's co-author, Ria Schroder, said about two-thirds of participants in the two-year project had experienced significant weight loss since eliminating or cutting back on Neednt foods.

"Simply avoiding Neednt foods is unlikely to be an effective weight-reduction strategy on its own. However, knowing which foods to make individual rules for can help people think more carefully about whether what they are eating is nutritious and necessary, or just random recreational grazing."

She and Dr Elmslie said they were expecting a backlash, but wanted to get out the message that there was an urgent need for new strategies or guidelines to deal with the growing problem of obesity. They said 63 per cent of New Zealanders were now either obese or overweight.

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New Zealand Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said that, although the list was well-intentioned, it was unhelpful for the wider population. "The report demonises individual foods without putting them into the context of a balanced diet."

No processed food manufacturers recommend the products on the list be consumed 100 per cent of the time – moderation was always key, she said. "If you try and put a list out of evil foods, it's very hard for people to slavishly maintain adherence."

NEEDNT FOODS (with replacements in brackets if available)
1. Alcoholic drinks (Water/diet soft drinks)
2. Biscuits
3. Butter, lard, dripping or similar fat (Lite margarine or similar spread or omit)
4. Cakes
5. Chocolate
6. Coconut cream (Lite coconut milk/coconut flavoured lite evaporated milk)
7. Condensed milk
8. Cordial (Water/Sugar free cordial)
9. Corn chips
10. Cream, including creme fraiche (Natural yoghurt, or flavoured yoghurt depending on use)
11. Crisps, including vegetable crisps
12. Desserts/puddings
13. Doughnuts
14. Drinking Chocolate, Milo etc (Cocoa plus artificial sweetener)
15. Energy drinks (Water)
16. Flavoured milk/milkshakes (Trim, Calcitrim or Lite Blue Milk)
17. Fruit tinned in syrup, even lite syrup (Fruit tinned in juice/artificially sweetened)
18. Fried food (Boiled, grilled or baked food)
19. Frozen yoghurt (Ordinary yoghurt)
20. Fruit juice, except tomato juice and unsweetened blackcurrant juice (Fresh fruit)
21. Glucose (Artificial sweetener)
22. High fat crackers (Lower fat crackers)
23. Honey
24. Hot chips
25. Ice cream
26. Jam
27. Marmalade
28. Mayonnaise (Lite dressings/lite mayonnaise)
29. Muesli bars
30. Muffins
31. Nuts roasted in fat or oil (Dry roasted or raw nuts)
32. Pastries
33. Pies
34. Popcorn with butter or oil (Air popped popcorn)
35. Quiches (Crust-less quiches)
36. Reduced cream (Natural yoghurt)
37. Regular luncheon sausage (Low fat luncheon sausage)
38. Regular powdered drinks (e.g. Raro) (Water/Diet/Sugar free powdered drinks)
39. Regular salami (Low fat salami)
40. Regular sausages (Low fat sausages)
41. Regular soft drinks (Water/Diet soft drinks)
42. Rollups (Fresh fruit)
43. Sour cream (Natural yoghurt)
44. Sugar (Artificial sweetener)
45. Sweets/lollies
46. Syrups such as golden syrup, treacle, maple syrup (Artificial sweetener)
47. Toasted muesli and any other breakfast cereal with greater than 15g sugar per 100g cereal
48. Whole Milk (Trim, Calcitrim or Lite Blue Milk)
49. Yoghurt type products with greater than 10g sugar per 100g yoghurt

- Wellington

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