The answer is an emphatic no: Kraft Singles are not a health food. They aren’t even really “food” at all, rather processed food-like things; each Single contains more than 15 ingredients. But Kraft would like you to believe their “prepared cheese product” slices are. In fact, they’d like you to believe they’re a healthy choice for young children. And that’s got me—and my fellow dietitians—cheesed off.
I’m not just peeved at Kraft, but also the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), a trade organization that represents 75,000 nutrition professionals. Earlier this month, the New York Times broke the news that Kraft Singles would be the first food item to carry the academy’s new “Kids Eat Right” seal. Kraft has been brandishing the logo in recent weeks, telling the Times that the academy endorsed their Singles as a “right” choice for kids. The AND, however, has been insisting to the media and outraged dietitians and parents that they never endorse products or brands. The logo, they say, doesn’t constitute a stamp of approval, rather simply identifies Kraft as a proud supporter of their “Kids Eat Right” campaign.
So far, it’s been a he-said-she-said food fight with an unclear winner. But it looks like a “victor” will soon emerge: Earlier this week, the AND announced it was working with Kraft to end the deal. I’m happy to hear they’re working to remove the logo (some Singles with the seal have, unfortunately, already hit shelves). And I argue that this decision makes children the real winner here.
Of course, I support the mission of the AND and their “Kids Eat Right” initiative: Their overarching goal is to “end the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation,” with the Kraft partnership highlighting their current focus to “raise awareness that the diets of America’s kids are lacking in three important components: dairy, calcium, and vitamin D.”
But Kraft Singles are not the way to achieve those goals. I believe the “Kids Eat Right” logo—whether meant to be a seal of approval or not—would have sent the wrong message to parents looking for healthy foods for their children. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly agree with the closing statement from fellow dietitians in their petition #RepealTheSeal (partly responsible for the logo deal’s demise): “Academy members deserve strong leaders who will protect the integrity of the Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist credential. This latest action is an embarrassing misstep that must be corrected swiftly in order to prevent further damage to the RD/RDN brand and to the academy.”
Just last e-news, I discussed the importance of getting trusted dietary information from RDs, not self-proclaimed nutrition experts without qualifications. While it’s impossible that the academy could represent every dietitian's individual opinions, their major public messages should be clear, not confusing, and nutritionally sound.
Don’t Believe the Hype
This cheesy controversy serves as the perfect reminder of how important it is for you to be an educated food consumer. Brands in the food and beverage industry make BIG money, and they employ any and all marketing gimmicks they can to get you to spend lots on their offerings. They know the public is more concerned now than ever about eating healthily. Whether it’s through weight-loss promises or “all-natural” claims, the marketing minds behind these brands are working overtime to convince you their products are healthy choices—even when they aren’t.
When you’re shopping, employ your nutrition knowledge to see beyond the hype and make the right food choices. As you already know, fresh, whole foods are the best place to start. From there, the fewer ingredients, typically the better. Remember that and, “Kids Eat Right” seal or no seal, you wouldn’t put Kraft Singles in your cart.
Reminder: To be an educated food consumer, make sure your nutrition information is coming from a trusted, reliable source. Share this newsletter and my radio and television shows with friends and family to help educate them about proper food choices, and continue to ask me your nutrition questions (there are no stupid ones!).
Cheeseburger photo courtesy of joephotostudio / freedigitalphotos.net. Photo of me taken at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Hope & Main, Rhode Island's first kitchen incubator, of which I'm a BIG supporter. Learn more at makefoodyourbusiness.org.