Have you ever been offered a “healthy treat” only to be disappointed? Maybe you discreetly dispose of it or maybe you eat more, hoping it eventually tastes better. And for too many people a health halo allows them to justify eating more than they intended just because someone branded the treat as healthy.
I recently tasted a snack made with cacao powder and nibs offered by The Ranch in Malibu. Organic ingredients, check. Maple syrup instead of sugar, check. Cacao nibs instead of chocolate, check. Hemp protein, check. Introducing “Energy Bites”, a classic example of a treat branded as healthy.
LEARNING ABOUT FOOD, NUTRITION, AND MARKETING
The Ranch catered an evening vegan meal for the business group I worked with last week. The members were looking to learn more about food, nutrition and health.
Four members loved the vegan meal and enjoy how their body feels eating a vegan/vegetarian diet. The rest couldn’t wait to gnaw into a hunk of meat the next night. Fair enough. Not everyone thrives with the same diet, and the experience helped the entire group step back and respect each others differences.
A parting gift from the retreat included a nifty insulated picnic bag from The Ranch with a few signature items including dried kiwi and coconut, a savory coconut trail mix, and the Energy Bites along with a hefty bag of branded granola. It’s the Energy Bites that caught my eye, offering a unique object lesson in the world of better-for-you food marketing.
COMPARING CACAO TO CHOCOLATE
First, the energy bites look like morsels of chocolate brownie, but they’re not. A quick glance at the ingredient lists identifies organic maple syrup as the first ingredient, followed by organic almonds, organic cacao nibs, organic cacao powder, organic hemp seeds, organic mulberries, organic hemp protein powder, organic golden berries, organic ranch greens protein powder, sea salt, vanilla powder, and organic cinnamon.
I’m the first to celebrate the use of all organic ingredients, however the benefit from eating the energy bites instead of a great piece of dark chocolate pretty much ends there.
At 70 calories for two Energy Bites vs two 73% Belgian Dark Chocolate Non-Pareils, the morsels aims to deliver a “better for you” mix of ingredients and nutrients. However, the differences are marginal with similar calories, fat, carbohydrates and sugar content.
The 2 grams of additional fiber, one less gram of sugar and 1 additional gram of protein rank right up there as “materially insignificant”. Basically The Ranch offered the group organic candy.
JUSTIFYING A TREAT… OR TWO, OR THREE
Most people on a diet or restricted dietary protocol find themselves craving something sweet at some point in time. The Ranch helpfully supplies them with a product that they can stand behind: vegan and made from organic ingredients. My concern is whether or not this does the trick.
In my experience, people often justify eating more of something when it holds a halo of health. “Organic” tends to confer a halo. So do some of the ingredients. Too many believe cacao is better than chocolate, maple syrup better than sugar, and adding protein is a good thing. However, I would argue that all these attributes don’t necessarily make a portion of Energy Bites healthy for you. The rest of your diet has far more impact.
MAKING PEACE WITH SWEET
Maybe we need to make peace with sweet. I want a treat to be fabulous so I can savor every bite. I’m really not willing to waste my carbs on something that isn’t delicious.
Ironically when an indulgence is not satisfying, some people go after more of the treat. Unconsciously they are seeking bliss that didn’t happen on the first bite, and is unlikely to occur no matter how many bites.
Not much good comes from eating too much of something in search of satisfaction. If one is inclined to eat all of Energy Bites, the 8 pieces (four servings) and delivers 280 calories of organic sugar, healthy fats and protein.
Anytime we choose to enjoy a treat, check in and made sure it’s worth it. Some of us will likely be more satisfied with a small portion of the real thing. For me a couple of discs of delicious dark chocolate satisfies far more intensely than most treats.
So overall how do Energy Bites stack up? Taste is a personal preference. You’ll have to try them and let me know.