Diet Food

Reporter: Marguerite McKinnon

When it comes to healthy foods, it seems a new list comes out every week about which foods are the best. But this time, the ones making the decisions are consumers. Promises, promises, promises.

Everywhere you look, you see low fat, low salt, fat free, light, low carb, sugar free, no salt, high fibre, reduced fat, preservative free, full of fruit, natural and wholesome.

"Even ten years ago, it was really rare for people to have low fat milk or skim milk in their fridge whereas it's probably the norm now and that sort of trend has moved on to things like low G.I. labelling, people looking for low sugar, the Heart Foundation tick, low salt, low saturated fat" says Kate Fitzpatrick, the Editor of Slimming and Health Magazine. But Food Authorities have found in 84% of the time these labels are a pack of lies. The problem is so rife that industry watchdog, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has launched an investigation into food labelling laws.But amid the lies, there also lies the truth and the best judge is you - the consumer.

"I think in this case it's the true test. It's the taste test. It's consumers who are buying these products and trying them in their homes and trying to incorporate them into their healthy eating plan" says Kate. More than 80,000 consumers were asked by Slimming and Health Magazine to choose their favourites shopping items for health and convenience."Readers look for low fat probably as their number one criteria when looking for healthy products" says Kate.

Editor of Slimming and Health Magazine Kate Fitzpatrick says those surveyed want to lose weight, and are the main grocery buyer. The 2008 Healthy Eating Awards covered anything from healthy cereals.... to this: Some may think it surprising but fast foods are included...McDonald's Tick Approved Meals... and Sumo Salads were deemed the healthiest.

In BREADS AND CEREALS, Uncle Toby's Oatbrits, Baker's Delight Cape Seed Bread and Norganic Breakfast Bars got the nod.

In DAIRY AND DESSERTS, the favourites were Vaalia low fat Yoghurt, Nestle Diet, Weightwatchers, Peter's Light Icecream, Shape Milk, Pure Organic Milk, the only non-dairy-dairy winner So Good Soy Milk, and Bega Cheese.

In MEATS AND FISH Weightwatchers bacon, leg ham and tuna products and Greenseas foods were the most popular.

In SPREADS AND SALAD DRESSINGS Weightwatchers again got a mention, along with Norganic Mayonnaise, and Bertolli Olive Oil Spray.

There's no need to explain why, but best and worst category for voters is SNACKS. Most popular are Weightwatchers Muffin Bars, Paradise Vive Biscuits, Real Food Corn Thins, Slim Secrets Snack Bars and Ajita's Vege Chips. "It's about saying and recognising that we're busy and that we look to treat ourselves sometimes and we look to have a varied diet and it's really important to have healthy options" says Kate.

In CONVENIENCE MEALS - the best were: Chang Wok Ready Noodles, Sanitarium Vegetarian, McCain Healthy Choice, Zoglo's Vegetarian foods, Weightwatcher's Frozen meals and Heinz Very Special Canned Soups.

In DRINKS - Ocean Spray Light Cranberry, Weightwatchers Cordials, Wendy's Non-Dairy Smoothies and Bundaberg Diet Ginger Beer topped the list. While Twinings Green Tea and the even healthier White Tea are the hot options.

"Consumers are very educated to know that it's not enough to look for a product to be low fat, you need to really look at the sugar content as well to make sure that it's as low-calorie as well as being healthy" adds Kate.

In COOKING APPLIANCES.. voters couldn't go past a steamer...Morphy Richards Steamer was the most popular but voters demanded the unlisted George Foreman Grill to be included as well.

And finally nothing can beat FRESH FOOD, and when it comes to kids.. apples are the winner.... while the best allergy-free snacks are Pears.

"There's obviously lots of issues with, to do with activity, portion control and it's about sort of balancing everything and making sure that the diet includes mostly good things, a little bit of the things we love and everything in moderation" says Kate.

Slimming and Health Magazine

Website: http://www.slimmingandhealth.com.au/

Tel: (02) 8116 9374