Weight Management's Not So Sweet Spot

Sugar, not fat, has become Public Enemy No. 1. Fruits, vegetables and natural sweeteners are aiding the fight.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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Managing and losing weight is on the minds of many Americans. Holiday weight gain is real, says new research from Cornell University, and those extra pounds packed on between Halloween and Christmas can take more than five months to lose.

More than 65 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. Some 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 through 19 are overweight, and nearly one in five children ages 6 through 11 struggles with weight issues.

The solution is dieting, and an estimated 50 million Americans diet each year; but only about 5 percent manage to keep the weight off, according to Colorado State University Extension. Researchers from the Journal of the American Medical Association found most diets modestly reduced body weight and several heart disease risk factors. However, adherence to these regimens is low.

Even when dieting succeeds, it can create nutritional shortages. Adding micronutrient-rich foods or appropriate dietary supplements can fill the nutrient gaps. A recent study conducted by Nature’s Bounty Co. and its scientific advisory council member, J. Thomas Brenna of Cornell University, notes many popular weight loss diet plans don’t provide recommended levels of essential micronutrients, such as vitamin D, B12 and calcium.

One of the most universal recommendations from doctors is to consume more fruit and vegetables. Processors are responding with new products that can make these healthier substitutions a lot more attractive and satisfying to consumers.

X ReadyPackSoupkitReady Pac Foods (www.readypac.com) features a rainbow of appealing colors and shapes in its growing array of Bistro Gourmet fresh salads and meal bowls. Savory spices with some extra heat add interest to salads, making them craveable without extra calories. Ready Pac’s new sweet & spicy Korean Chopped Salad Kit with gochujang vinaigrette does just that, delivering trendy ethnic flavors like Korean barbecue in a toss-and-serve salad.

“Chefs at top fine dining restaurants have been experimenting with gochujang on their menus, and it’s beginning to appear in retail products, so we looked at how to feature it in a new offering,” says Ready Pac’s marketing vice president Priscila Stanton.

Vegetables are featured prominently in the company’s relatively new soup line. Its Fresh Prep’d brand, available since September 2017, so far consists of five soup kits, each with a flavorful broth base and mix-ins of fresh, crispy vegetables and protein. Chicken tortilla, for example, contains fire-roasted corn, cabbage, chicken and tomato stock concentrate, white chicken meat, tortilla strips, black beans, jalapeno and cilantro.

Graceland Fruit NoAddedSugarCranberriesGraceland Fruit (www.gracelandfruit.com), a Michigan dried fruit co-operative long known as an ingredient supplier, recently launched consumer products. Cherries, cranberries, blueberries, mango, “Berry Zest Blend” and “All-American Blend” are now available at retail. The cranberry product, for example, has no added sugar or artificial sweeteners and 10 percent fewer carbs and calories (130 per 1/4 cup) than conventional products, Graceland says. It’s also a good source of prebiotic fiber.

“The [cranberries] product contains 50 percent more of the natural cranberry center than conventional dried cranberries and has prebiotic fructan fiber that offers great texture,” explains Karsten Kotte, Graceland’s vice president of technical services. Adds Tara Rybicki, Graceland’s nutrition advisor: “Prebiotics help increase levels of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine – scientifically proven to support digestive health. This [also] contributes to feeling full.”

The cauliflower craze

More food companies are incorporating cauliflower in new products as a way to cut carbs and fat. It’s also paleo-friendly. “Ricing” is one of the most popular forms, and it has created success for both Pinnacle Foods, owner of the Birds Eye brand, and B&G Foods, which owns Green Giant.

Birds Eye has riced cauliflower with roasted garlic, sour cream & chives and savory herbs. Recent introductions are buffalo and ranch flavors. And the brand has mashed it with similar flavors as a substitute for mashed potatoes. Riced or mashed, cauliflower is a healthier substitute for the starchy originals.

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