Beware big food companies that “sell” balance

It sounds like reasonable advice: Lead a “balanced” lifestyle for better health. But consider the source. When folks who are trying to sell you junk food, talk about a “balanced” approach to nutrition and wellness, the word “balance” becomes unreasonable propaganda. You better beware.

Big food companies have hijacked the word balanced, according to Yoni Freedhoff, a professor at University of Ottawa, Department of Family Medicine, in an effort to deflect blame for health problems from their nutrient-depleted processed foods — and try to make it out to be your fault!

Part of their audacious marketing scam, as Prof. Freedhoff point out, is to use catchphrases to fool you into thinking they have your health in mind:

  • Coca-Cola trumpets the need for an “active balanced lifestyle.”
  • MacDonald’s urges a “balanced active lifestyle”
  • General Mills promotes “a balanced and healthy lifestyle”
  • Pepsico advocates “a balanced lifestyle.”
  • Unliver declares that the answer for health is “a balanced diet and lifestyle.”
  • Mars is in favor of a “well balanced lifestyle.”
  • Nestle’s has become the advocate for “a balanced lifestyle.”

It’s no coincidence that the language used by all these corporations is so similar. They’re all after the same goal – to sell you more processed food. Their marketing messages are designed to convince you that their products can be part of a “balanced” lifestyle.

Don’t be fooled

Consider what Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, has said about the diabetes and obesity epidemic that soft drinks, including Pepsi, have helped to produce: “There’s no question that sedentary lifestyles have caused the obesity crisis to get out of control.”

What she leaves out is the huge role played by the junk food industry’s favorite additive, high-fructose corn syrup, in what we drink and eat. As Freedhoff warns, you can’t offset the effects of eating too much junk food and drinking soda with exercise. These sugary concoctions will increase your weight and drag your health down no matter how much you work out.

Freedhoff also warns against the use of athletes as endorsers of soft drinks and other junk food: “… if you’re an elite athlete who commands the admiration and respect of adoring young fans, if you then choose to use that influence to sell them sugared soda, you’re no longer someone who can be considered a good role model, instead you’re just a business person.”

If you go online to look for the nutrition advice offered by these companies, you find colorful newsletters like this that seem to contain reliable nutrition help. But dig deeper, and you find they promote products like Memento, a drink that includes hydrogenated oil – a form of trans fat linked to cancer and heart disease.

That Nestle’s newsletter claims that Memento is a “guilt free beverage.” But like many of these products, it’s not part of a balanced lifestyle. It’s a part of recipe for health disaster.

Real balance without the danger

Giving up sugary soft drinks is not easy. And that’s why these big companies are banking on. But if you can at least begin to cut down on them, you may find it’s easier to eventually cut them out of your life completely.

Tea is a good choice, in my opinion. You can still get the caffeine you may be accustomed to, but you can choose to drink tea unsweetened or add a natural sweetener, like honey or stevia. Additionally, green tea has almost unlimited health benefits for you.

My friend, Dr. Mark Wiley would concur. He says making a habit of drinking tea, especially green tea, for at least 12 weeks has a strong lowering effect on blood pressure. Four cups and higher per day show the best results. For more on the healthful benefits of green tea, see what Dr. Wiley’s has to say, here.


Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.