Kiwis hooked on unhealthy food

BY ESTHER HARWARD
Last updated 10:59 02/03/2009
Sunday Star-Times
The New Zealand supermarket top ten: Coca-Cola 1.5l, Wattie's spaghetti 420g, Coca-Cola 2.25l, QB Nature's Fresh white toast 700g, Wattie's baked beans 420g, Dole bobby bananas (850g), Tip Top super soft white toast 700g, Sprite lemonade 1.5l, QB Molenberg original toast 700g, Coke Zero 1.5l

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Despite years of warnings about the perils of a poor diet, Kiwi shoppers are piling supermarket baskets high with soft drink, white bread and other unhealthy foods laden with sugar, salt and fat.

And our favourite product of all is a 1.5-litre bottle of Coke.

Confidential data leaked to the Sunday Star-Times reveals the top 10 food and drink items sold in supermarkets nationwide in the year to January include four soft drinks (Sprite, Coke Zero and two different-sized bottles of Coca-Cola) and two brands of white bread.

The full list of the 40 top-sellers tells a similar story, as buyers choose soft drinks, snack foods and confectionery. (The figures exclude alcohol, tobacco and non-packaged fruit and vegetables.)

Public health nutritionist Bronwen King said the data shows the Kiwi diet has become too refined. "The things the companies say are occasional foods are becoming everyday foods, and are replacing traditional core foods.

We're having a diet that's full of kilojoules, but deficient in the essential nutrients that keep us well and prevent disease." Greens food spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said the figures show the Advertising Code of Practice, which demands responsible marketing of food in the media, should be extended to apply inside shops.

Kedgley said the packaging and placement of foods could exert a powerful influence on shoppers buying decisions. She said broadening the advertising code would allow shoppers to take complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority if they felt retailers and manufacturers were not being "socially responsible" about how they advertise and sell food.

King said sophisticated marketing techniques fuel human beings' innate addiction to fatty, sugary and salty foods. Core foods such as wholegrain cereals, legumes, milk, fruit and vegetables don't have the marketing budgets of refined products such as Coca-Cola, so can't compete.

"If you or I were to make a brown sugary water we wouldn't have any traction. It's a product that wouldn't exist if it wasn't for marketing."

The top 40 foods and drinks compiled by market research company Nielsen from national supermarket data over the 12 months to January ranks Coca-Cola in first, third, 10th and 28th place. Fizzy drinks appear nine times, and white bread four times.

The few nutritionally valuable items include baked beans (ranked fifth), packaged bananas (sixth), Molenberg bread (ninth), Weetbix (23 and 24), milk (29 and 39th), wheatmeal bread (36) and Vogels bread (37).

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New Zealanders have the sixth-highest rates of obesity in the developed world. One in four adults are obese, and one in 12 children are obese. Two-thirds of Pacific Island New Zealanders are obese.

The top 10 items sold in Supermarkets...

1. Coca-Cola 1.5l
2. Wattie's spaghetti 420g
3. Coca-Cola 2.25l
4. QB Nature's Fresh white toast 700g
5. Wattie's baked beans 420g
6. Dole bobby bananas (850g)
7. Tip Top super soft white toast 700g
8. Sprite lemonade 1.5l
9. QB Molenberg original toast 700g
10. Coke Zero 1.5l

...And what they'll do to you
Nutritionist Jacquie Dale analyses the top five supermarket sellers

1. Coca-Cola (1.5l bottles): One litre of Coke contains over 1800 empty kilojoules you would have to walk fast for more than two hours to work off. A litre of Coke contains 106g of sugar more than 26 teaspoons. I call Coke naked carbs lots of empty calories with no nutrients. Drinking a lot of Coke is a sure way to develop problems such as type 2 diabetes.

2. Wattie's spaghetti 420g: This food is low in fat but high in sodium. A better meal would be to make spaghetti from scratch and add plenty of vegetables and canned tomatoes.

3. Coke again (2.25l): Cheaper than milk how sad. I don't classify Coke as a food it offers no worthy nutrients.

4. QB Nature's Fresh White Toast: Oh no! Naked carbs again. Not so bad if you're going to pack two slices with lots of salad and some lean protein but if this is going to be a toast, jam or Nutella feast then white bread is not a healthy option. Wholegrain loaves are more expensive, but are filling and much more nutritious, so you use less. Hopefully all this white bread isn't going under the spaghetti, because the tomato sauce doesn't count as a vege serve in my book.

5. Wattie's baked beans 420g: Although beans are good for you and packed with fibre, a can of baked beans has almost 30g of sugar. This is a low fat product and high in fibre, but does it require 1890mg of salt and 29g of sugar to make it taste good? Choose the reduced salt version.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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