ou may have seen the news that several big food chains are eliminating artificial ingredients and additives or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Panera Bread was one of the first national chains to lead the movement. They have been working for over a year re-working their menu ingredients taking out over 150 artificial ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial trans fats. They referenced lists such as the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” guide to Food Additives. The guide lists dangers of additives such as Nitrates, Potassium Bromate and Propyl Paraben and educates consumers on the potentials risks.
Others to lead the charge are Yum Brands: Taco Bell
and Pizza Hut. Taco Bell hopes to start switching to natural sources by the end of 2015 and take out trans fats and artificial preservatives by end of 2017. Over 95% of Taco Bell’s menu will be affected. Pizza Hut has already eliminated trans fat and MSG and is working on removing artificial colors and flavors this year.
There are hundreds of artificial additives that are in our foods that it is hard to keep up with the all. Here’s an interesting interactive graphic
to explain some.
If you are not a dietitian, food additives may sound like a chemistry class and you may be wondering how this affects you and your practice. With major restaurants making headlines about how they are moving to “natural sources” for their ingredients, I can also see marketing and articles highlighting their healthy decisions and framing the chain with a green light for healthy eating. While I think the news is great and hope all major chains will shift this direction, this can be somewhat a confusing message to our patients. I can see them thinking “Ohh, so now Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s Person Pan is better for me now that the all the artificial stuff is gone, right?” But we all know the answer is unfortunately, “not quite.” I’m a believer in not highly restricting food or labeling foods as good or bad but promoting portion control. With that personal pan having 850 calories, 18 grams of saturated fat, 69 grams of carbohydrate, and 2,170 mg of sodium there’s a lot of other areas to address on top of artificial additives.
Take a minute to familiarize yourself with artificial additives and their risks to be an informed educator but also discuss with your patients the bigger picture of portions, carbs, fiber, etc.
About the Author
Amy Campbell is a dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She currently works in public health in Lexington, Kentucky and has been working in diabetes for over seven years.