The 3 Week Diet

Leanwashing: How Unhealthy Foods Become ‘Healthy’


Leanwashing. What is it? Here’s a hint. Sometimes it’s written right into the brand. You may have heard of “Healthy Choice.” Every time you say the name of the products they are prefaced with a description….”healthy choice.” But is it so? Same goes for a number of foods on our grocery shelves with such descriptors as “all natural” or “heart healthy” or “made with whole grains” or “low fat” or even “fat free.” It’s not by accident, nor is some of the attractive packaging on products. How many pictures of rustic farmhouses and verdant pastures have you seen painted on boxes of cereal or on packages of processed meats?

What you are witnessing is “leanwashing.” Bruce Bradley discusses the concept in a recent article. Bradley is a former food marketer for such major companies as General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco and now, as a former industry insider, he has written a number of in depth articles on his blog — including a great expose on the weight loss industry — revealing some of these persuasive practices that may steer us towards foods that are, to say the least, not in our best health interests. He has this to say about “leanwashing.”

According to EnviroMedia Social Marketing, leanwashing is “the practice of making a product or service appear healthier than it is through advertising or other forms of marketing.” Sound familiar? I think so. Over the past decade or so, Big Food increasingly acts more and more like a snake oil salesman, shilling sugary, salt-laden, fatty processed foods and calling them “healthy.” With their deep pockets, manufacturers have been able to manipulate the food conversation and influence its regulation by spending billions annually on ad campaigns and lobbyists.

The full article is at BruceBradley.com and is well worth a read, as he walks us through an example of “leanwashing” by deconstructing the allegedly healthy Quaker Chewy Granola Bars. If you found the article an eyeopener as I did, be sure to check out Bruce Bradley’s official Facebook page and his blog for much more.

Here’s another example to check out in the video below. Dietitian Jeff Novick MS, RD is also a former food industry insider, and has done us a great service by revealing just how misleading labeling is not only permissible by the FDA, but has deceived many. If you’ve ever picked up a can of non-stick cooking spray that claims to be fat free and you are hoping it’s helping you cut calories in your dieting efforts, you’ll want to watch as Novick reveals, with a dash of bleak humor, how food manufacturers can take a product which is 100 percent fat and claim a serving has 0 percent fat and zero calories. When it comes to leanwashing, it’s quite the extreme! Watch his presentation in the video below and if you find it informative be sure to check out his official Facebook page.

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