What will be the next food marketing buzz word in 2006?
In the light of recent news events, we're putting our money on -- fat.
Not "low fat" anymore -- heavens, no. That old refrain may go by the boards for a while since the publication of results of a recent study that might (or might not) indicate that eating a low-fat diet doesn't have much effect in preventing heart disease and cancer.
And, parenthetically, not "low carb," either. That expression went down in flames when the Atkins diet hit the skids last year. True, "whole grain" has tried to take the place of "low carb." "Whole grain" now shows up on everything from sugar-stuffed Lucky Charms to Kraft's Supermac and Cheese. But the jury is still out on its selling ability.
No. The big legend emblazoned on the packaged foods you're going to see as you wend your way down the clinical (whoops, I meant to say "grocery") aisle will read something like "good fat." Or "monounsaturated fat" or "polyunsaturated fat," referring to the fact that including some of those fats in our diets is not only necessary but good for us. In other words -- bring on the olive oil; lose the butter.
We've known this for quite some time, of course, but the study that turned up on the front page of just about every newspaper in the country has really driven home the point: Fat doesn't have to be a dirty word; some fats can actually be accepted in polite society.
Another legend that you'll see is this: "No trans fats." The FDA drove home the fact that artificial, chemically altered trans fats that appear in processed foods like cookies, potato chips, margarine and microwave popcorn clog the arteries.
We're known this for quite some time, too, but as of Jan. 1, the agency ruled that it was serious enough that the presence or absence of trans fats have to be indicated on nutrition labels. Many food companies immediately went back to the drawing board and got rid of them.
Now, there's nothing wrong with a food company trying to make money. Nothing wrong with trying to make its product healthier. And certainly nothing wrong with making the general public more nutritionally aware.
What is disturbing, though, is they see us as jerks. Americans constantly look for the magic bullet, the secret ingredient to guarantee eternal health immediately (or beauty or happiness). They play on that fact, and it works.
Instant gratification forever.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing. Over and over again, we are reminded that a healthy diet does not consist of one element. It is a totality.
Not too many calories; not to much fat; not too much sugar; not too much sodium -- not too much of anything, especially of the nutrient of the month.
The solution, if there is one, is moderation.
Eating mindfully just about every day. Lots of vegetables, lots of fruit with balanced helpings of dairy products and meat and fish and poultry and, yes, whole grains.
Also daily exercise..
Day after day after day after day after day . . . forever.
Not very dramatic is it? No bells, No whistles. Not catchy or sexy. No real marketing opportunity to grab onto.
But, if anything is going to make us healthier, this way of life just might.
The question is: Are we adult enough to accept it?