But 2005 was a year that saw some big shifts in diet and nutrition, and with losing weight perennially at the top of the list of those pledges people make to the strains of Auld Lang Syne, I have a few resolutions I'd like to see adopted.
Resolution 1: No "Low GI!"
With the relegation of the Atkins fad to the dustbin of badly applied science where it belongs - finally - a lot of folks who play the wellness food game for a fast buck seem to be grasping for a replacement. Some eyes are already landing on glycemic index, with the idea of slapping some "low GI" rebadging on the low-carb foods they couldn't dump before Atkins tanked. I urge responsible processors to resolve not to succumb to the temptation. GI is not a weight-loss program. It is a measure intended for guiding diabetics in food choices across their entire diet.
To call a single food "low GI" outside this context is like saying it "has more 7.5 than the leading brand." To put it in perspective, potato chips have a lower glycemic index than carrots. That does not, however, make them (tasty though they are) a substitute for carrots.
Resolution 2: Taste the Food!
In the rush to get a competing product to market, taste is often left behind. We taste a lot of new products in this business and if I had a lottery ticket for every one that I wouldn't even feed to a stray dog . . .
Don't get me wrong; we've had a number of really awesome food products pass our palates. I am picking on the few cheaters who think it's OK to market something that tastes like cardboard and wallpaper paste just because it is "good for you."
Resolution 3: Enough with the salt bashing already.
As we noted in print and online a few times in 2005, to date there is no scientific backing for reducing salt in a healthy person's diet. The fact that government and hysteria groups persist in demonizing salt - despite all the evidence that says they shouldn't - does not make it right. I'll be right there supporting salt reduction for the common folk the minute sufficient credible science warrants it, but until then salt is a perfectly fine ingredient.
Resolution 4: An old Texas saying (modified here slightly) sums up this resolution: "Don't wet my leg and tell me it's raining."
Not every food has to be a wellness food. I know we keep reporting how hot the trend to include a nutraceutical or other health component is. And it is: The growth in this field is phenomenal, as well it should be. Still, if yours isn't, please don't try to shoehorn it into the niche through "creative" marketing. Cookies and potato chips are fun, tasty snack foods. I love ‘em. And I'm glad they no longer have trans fat in them. Boasting about that is fine, too, by the way. But let's not get carried away; the absence of one undesired component does not render them health foods.
Resolution 5: Give kids a break.
There's no diminishing the ridiculousness of the recent National Academy of Sciences push to blame childhood obesity on food advertising. That's not to say that many of the ads and products aimed at kids aren't appalling, but few six- to 11-year-olds do their own grocery shopping and cooking. Hey, parents! If your kid's overweight, it's your fault. End of story.
Still, do let's resolve to give kids a break. We can start by not presuming they are all nothing but little sugar and salt cravers. Most children have a broad and even exploratory palate. Sure, there are those kids who will eat nothing but plain noodles at breakfast, lunch and dinner for months at a time. But for the most part, kids are every bit as intrigued by new foods as adults.
Subtle flavors, ethnic flavors, fresh flavors - all can be employed in kid-oriented foods. Think of it: By expanding your horizons to accommodate a broader definition of "kid foods," you open the possibilities of increasing product lines and sales and blowing away the competition that come late to the same conclusion.
All the signs point to a wonderful 2006 for processors of all foods - especially wellness foods. Whatever resolutions we make that center on change, here's hoping we continue the forward trend of making better, tastier and healthier foods for everyone.