Jun 20, 2018

Too Yumm or Too Junk?

A few days back, I came across this ad for Too Yumm multigrain chips on TV where cricketer Virat Kohli was promoting it as a “healthy snack” with “7 multigrains” and it is “Baked, not fried”. Then I stumbled upon this Economic Times article, that talks about how "Too Yumm" ads were continuously played throughout IPL. I stopped watching TV a few years back (and IPL too), so I had no clue about this new brand of chips. The article also talks about how Virat Kohli came on board after he ended his association with PepsiCo with a statement - “If I myself won't consume such things, I won't urge others to consume it just because I'm getting money out of it.”

Wow, I never knew about this incident and I had to find out more details about this healthy snack that a rare, socially-responsible celebrity like Virat Kohli is promoting.

A quick search in Amazon got me what I wanted - yes, the ingredients list !! There are so many varieties of Too Yumm snacks and I have looked at “Multigrain chips - Grilled corn” flavor.

The pack says “power of 7 grains” - Wheat, Rice, Corn, Gram, Oats, Soya and Ragi. I was curious to know about the percentages of these 7 grains. 

Wheat flour (28%) (Nothing but maida)
Rice flour (23%)
Corn flour (19%)
Gram flour (12%)
Oats (3%)
Soya flour (3%)
Ragi flour (3%)

- Nearly 50% of it is maida + corn flour, both have no nutrition whatsoever. To position themselves as a “healthy" snack, the word “multi-grain” is stressed upon in their packaging and ads, but ONLY a tiny percentage of soya, oats and ragi are included. The nutrition table states that it contains a meagre 1.28g of dietary fibre in a serving size of 30gm.

- A serving size of 30gm contains 270mg of sodium, whereas a 30gm pack of Lays American Style Cream & Onion contains 223mg of sodium. Is Too Yumm really a “less guilt” snack? I don’t think so.  When a pack says "less fat", it always ends up either high in sugar or salt, in order to balance the taste.

- What’s the need for an artificial sweetener in a savoury snack like multigrain chips?  Mannitol (INS 421) is a low calorie sweetener, that is semi-artificially produced by adding hydrogen to fructose, which is derived from starch. It is generally recognised as safe by FDA, but the side effects include hyperactivity and aggravated food intolerances.

- The two flavour enhancers that we came across earlier in Saffola Masala Oats and Knorr Soups are present in Too Yumm chips as well - INS 627, INS 631. To know more about these two ingredients, please check out my earlier posts.

- Synthetic food colour (Caramel) is present, but the class number is not mentioned.

- I’m not sure if we could consider sunflower oil a healthier choice as compared to palmolein that is typically used in all junk foods. Yes, the saturated fats seem to be lesser in Too Yumm, as compared to Lays chips. But since all refined oils are unhealthy, I wouldn’t consider this pack a “less guilt” choice.

This analysis pertains to just ONE variety. Before we go ga-ga over "baked, not fried" (and just because Virat says so), let's take a moment and read through the ingredients.

Jun 7, 2018

Analysis of Complan Ingredients

If Quinoa and chia seeds are the super-foods of our current urban households, then Complan and Horlicks/Boost/Bournvita are considered as super-foods by the previous generation. In the days of few advertisements in TV, I'm so curious to understand how these brands had become household names in the 80s and 90s, more so on how they managed to create such strong beliefs in the minds of the previous generation that these are "must-have health drinks" for children. 
This post is specifically on Complan. I used to hate the taste of it, it never got properly mixed with milk, always had lumps or gets settled in the bottom of the tumbler ;-) After a couple of attempts, my parents gave up on Complan, as it used to be more expensive than Boost/Bournvita back then.

The most asked question from my readers is “Which health drink would you recommend to be mixed with milk?” My answer is “definitely not those packaged health drinks that are loaded with sugar, artificial flavors and additives”.

Let’s look at the ingredients of Complan - Classic Chocolate Flavour:

Milk Solids (50.1%)
Peanut Oil
Caramel (INS 150c)
Beetroot juice powder

Contains Permitted Natural Colour and Added Flavours

1. Let’s look at the second listed ingredient - Sugar
100 gm of Complan contains 29gm of sugar. Nearly 30% of the product is only sugar, so if you take 3 tsp of Complan powder to prepare a glass, 1 tsp is nothing but sugar. While preparing the drink, many of us also add 1-2 tsp of white sugar on top of it. 750gm of Complan Classic Chocolate flavor costs Rs.370 MRP. 30% of 750gm is 225gm, which would cost Rs.111. So for 225gm of sugar, we are paying Rs.111. What an exorbitant price we are paying for consuming sugar, both from an economical and our health point of view!

2. Maltodextrin - A simple google search of “maltodextrin side effects” will show how this starch-derived food additive raises blood sugar levels rapidly. 
From this site,
Maltodextrin is a white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. Even though it comes from plants, it’s highly processed. It has high glycemic index (GI). Maltodextrin’s GI is higher than table sugar, ranging from 106 to 136. The high GI of maltodextrin means it can cause spikes in your blood sugar level, especially if it’s consumed in large amounts. Because of this, you may want to avoid or limit it if you have diabetes or insulin resistance.
Continuous intake of such high GI products will eventually lead to insulin resistance. 

Now if you are wondering what’s wrong in giving high GI foods to a child, then let’s first take a step back and honestly answer these questions - “how physically active kids are these days? Are they participating actively in sports? Are they working towards becoming athletes?” Is there a need for such high-GI foods for kids, who are mostly sedentary?

3. In my earlier post on Pediasure, I had written about inositol, taurine and L-Carnitine. Reposting the same details on these ingredients.
Inositol is used for treating various medical conditions such as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), PCOD (polycystic ovarian disease), panic disorder, psoriasis etc. What’s the need for such an ingredient in a child’s growth drink, I wonder.
One of the side-effects of high inositol consumption (and taurine) is that it increases complications of bipolar disorder. 

Taurine is a “conditionally essential" amino-acid. Our body can produce taurine and it is also found in some foods such as meat, fish and dairy. 

Quoting from this source,
Since it's a "conditionally essential" amino acid, a healthy individual can produce the minimal amount required for these essential daily functions.
However, higher amounts may be required in rare cases, making it an "essential" nutrient for some people. This includes people with heart or kidney failure, or premature infants that have been fed intravenously for a long time.

Taurine supplements might be effective for people with diabetes and heart conditions. And it is also usually consumed by athletes to improve their performance.

This could be one of the possible reasons why kids who drink Complan put on weight. But again, it is an artificial supplement and I question the need for it. 

A naturally occurring amino-acid derivative. Our body produces it using the amino acids lysine and methionine. It helps in the production of energy by transporting fatty acids into our cells’ mitochondria. It helps to reverse the decline in brain function associated with Alzheimer's and other brain diseases associated with aging. It is also prescribed as a weight-loss supplement. 

4. Caramel (INS 150c)
In 2011, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has reviewed the safety of a group of caramel colors (150a, 150b, 150c and 150d). 

The Panel points out that adults and children who are high consumers of foods containing these colors could exceed the ADIs established for three of these colors (E150a, E150c, E150d) if they are used at the maximum levels reported by industry. 

“The maximum permissible intake is up to 200 mg/kg body weight for E150c and E150d. Side effects are manifested from the use of IN150c and IN150d, where intestinal problems may occur after ingestion of large amounts.”

The manufacturing process of caramel results in the production of 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), which is carcinogenic. Food manufacturers rely on the argument that the quantity consumed have to be extremely high to face the side-effects of this chemical.  

Now, what about the "good stuff"- milk solids and the vitamins & minerals?

Milk Solids are nothing but the dry powder that is left after all the water is removed from liquid milk. Unless and until the milk comes from an organic dairy farm where the cows are treated with respect, chances are that the milk will contain antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from synthetic feed etc, which will also be present in milk solids.

I still couldn't figure out any conclusive study that states that synthetic vitamins & minerals are absorbed by the body. When nature gives us enough produce which has the required vitamins & minerals, why do we need such synthetic chemicals? Even if you believe that these synthetic vitamins & minerals are effective, take a look at the minuscule numbers:

100 gm of Complan contains 30mg of Vitamin C, whereas 100 gm of green capsicum contains 123 mg of Vitamin C.
100 gm of Complan contains 318mcg of Vitamin A, whereas 100 gm of sweet potato contains 1043 mcg of Vitamin A.
100 gm of Complan contains 70mg of magnesium, whereas 100 gm of dry cowpea beans (lobia/karamani) contains 213 mg of magnesium.

I'd recommend that you read my earlier article on why kids don't need such high-growth promising drinks. I have shared a few ideas on what healthy, homemade drinks can be given in the morning rush hours.


Jun 4, 2018

30+ Healthy options for your child's tiffin box

Schools have reopened from the summer break. Parents can let out a sigh of relief now :-) The school routine makes our days more planned and predictable.

As moms of young children, we are more concerned about what to pack for their lunch box / snack box rather than their homework / studies ;-) Isn't it such a happy feeling when their dabbas come home empty?

I decided to make a list of ideas for myself, to keep my meal planning stress-free. Sharing this with other parents who believe in packing healthy lunch boxes without any packaged foods / junk foods.

Regular readers of my blog, you might have come across similar lists in my previous posts. It is "araicha maavu araichufying" (grinding the same batter) in a new avatar ;-)

Snack (mid-morning break)
1. Seasonal Fruits 
2. Fruit Chaat / Fruit Salad
3. A few nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts or pistachio)
4. Dry fruits (raisins, dates, figs)
5. Chikki varieties (peanut, sesame, flaxseed) 
6. Roasted makhana
7. Homemade popcorn
8. Vegetable sticks with hummus (Cucumber, carrot, capsicum)
9. Simple veg salad / kosambari (soaked moong dal, chopped cucumber, carrot, raw mango)
10. Sundal varieties
11. Roasted peanuts / boiled peanuts
12. Boiled sweet corn

Main meal (Breakfast / Lunch)
1. Idli / Mini Idli
2. Stuffed masala idli
3. Oothappam (with different veggies)
4. Kuzhi paniyaram
5. Sevai / rice vermicelli (Lemon sevai, coconut sevai, peanut sesame sevai)
6. Lemon rice
7. Tomato rice
8. Coconut rice
9. Veg pulao / Veg fried rice
10. Capsicum corn rice / Cabbage rice
11. Aloo paratha
12. Paneer paratha
13. Carrot cabbage paratha
14. Rava idli
15. Rava Upma
16. Veg rice (any dry veg preparation mixed with rice and a little ghee - kaai saadham)
17. Curd rice
18. Chapathi rolls (thick chapathi stuffed with rajma/chickpeas/paneer + veggies)
19. Vermicelli Upma
20. Poha with potatoes / Tamarind poha
21. Poori / Beetroot poori / Palak poori
22. Cutlet / Tikkis

Let's take an oath to avoid packing junk foods or other packaged foods in our kids' tiffin boxes, irrespective of whether the school enforces or not. A few things to avoid:
Bread and jam / Nutella / cheese spread
Cheese slices / cubes
Chocos / ragi fills
Lotte choco pie in individual packs
Bournvita biscuits in individual packs
Any other biscuits/cookies/candies
Also I would highly recommend that you use simple steel boxes to pack snacks/lunch for your kids. The colorful plastic ones are unhealthy, even if they claim to be food-grade.

Our kids are dependent on us for nutrition and good health. Let's not outsource that work to food corporations. If we need to wake up early, let's set the alarm 30 min earlier and make something healthy and homemade.

If you pack other healthy, homemade options, do share in the comments below. Will add them to the list above.
Let's welcome a healthy and happy academic year!!

Jun 1, 2018

A peek into Packaged / Branded ice-creams

The scorching summer heat is in full blast, in many parts of India. Thankfully, Bangalore weather is so pleasant with cloudy evenings and mild drizzle. 

Summer means many things - summer vacation, travel, mangoes, watermelons, tender coconut water, popsicles and of course, ice-creams. Apart from a few exceptions (including myself), most people LOVE ice-creams. My daughter is CRAZY about ice creams and given a chance, she would love to relish one every single day. I try to take her to “Naturals” ice-cream parlour now and then, as I find their ice creams to have a natural fruit-based flavour without any artificial taste. But some days, she insists on buying packaged/branded ice-cream from supermarkets. 

A few days back, she wanted Magnum’s chocolate “stick ice-cream”. She gave me a strict order NOT to take pictures or write about ice-creams ;-) But I couldn’t stop myself from reading the ingredients.

The “classic” flavour with a 70 gm serving size has 19.2 gms OR close to 5 tsp of sugar

I had earlier shared about sugar allowance for kids in a day. If you haven't read it, please take a couple of minutes to go through it.

The maximum added sugar that a child can have is around 5-6 tsp per day.

Just one ice-cream stick is sufficient to hit their daily allowance limit.

Let's look at the next big concern - "saturated fats" from unhealthy oils. The “classic” flavour with a 70 gm serving size has 9g of saturated fat.

From this site,

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, no more than 10 percent of your child's daily calories should come from saturated fat, regardless of age or gender. In a 1,300-calorie diet, that's 14 or fewer grams of saturated fat.

Almost all packaged food products contain sugar and saturated fats. So if this ice-cream is the ONLY junk food that your child eats in a day, then she may not exceed her limit. But if the child's meal plan looks like the one below, their sugar and saturated fats consumption will be way over the limits:
"Health" Drinks - Milk with sugar / Malted health drinks with sugar (2-3 times a day)
Breakfast - Chocos OR bread and jam / nutella / cheese spread
Snack - biscuits / cookies / Lotte Choco Pie
Lunch / Dinner - Cheese Sandwich / Pasta with readymade pasta sauce / burger with mayonaisse

Let's also look at Kwality Wall’s Cornetto Mini Disc, which had 6 small cones of vanilla and chocolate flavours.
For a serving size of 30 gm, each cone has 9g (OR close to 2.5 tsp) of sugar and 4.1g of saturated fat.

Compound Coating (33.8%) (Sugar, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Oil, Cocoa Solids, Coconut Oil, Emulsifier - 322, Contains Added Artificial Vanilla & Chocolate Flavoring Substances)
Wafer biscuit Cone (20.6%) (Wheat flour, Sugar, Palm Oil, Emulsifier - 322, Salt, Contains Permitted Natural Colour - 150d),
Palm Oil,
Milk Solids,
Liquid Glucose,
Cocoa Solids,
Vegetable Protein (Soy),
Emulsifier - 471
Stabilisers - 410, 412, 407

Contains Permitted Synthetic food colours - 110, 102, 122, 133, 143 and added flavors (artificial vanilla flavouring substance)

More than the sugar, the synthetic additive numbers are a big concern to me. Why does a chocolate flavor need SO MANY synthetic food colours?
I'm sure the ingredients list will look almost the same for the branded ones like Baskin & Robbins, ibaco etc.  I wish they share the ingredients list of each flavor in their menu card.

It is hard to say No to a child who loves ice-creams. It is okay to indulge once in a while, but let's keep in mind - given the number of options of packaged foods, if we adopt the "once-in-a-while" strategy for each of them, the overall consumption would still be very high.

P.S. While checking out the pack of Cornetto ice-creams, a marketing person who was standing there in the supermarket wanted to take a picture of me and daughter buying this pack. I politely declined. But I couldn't stop myself from laughing at the irony! "dei, ennayum unga social media ko.pa.se vaa aakka paakringala?" :-) ("Are you trying to use me as your social media spokesperson?) Naa, not the same effect in English!!


May 23, 2018

Book Review: You can achieve more by Shiv Khera

There are two kinds of people in the world - those who love self-help books and those who make fun of self-help books. I belong to the first kind and self-help is one of my favourite aisles in a bookstore. Just like how we keep our physical bodies fit by eating right and exercising everyday, I believe we need to invest time towards our mind and emotions on a daily basis. Reading self-help books are one of the many ways by which we could reflect on our days and lives.

Sometime in 2003, I read Shiv Khera’s popular book “You can win”. I don’t remember much of it now, but I liked it for its simplicity and powerful quotes. In his new book “You can achieve more - Live by Design, not by default", the author follows a similar writing style, but focusing on more important aspects that are relevant for today. 

If “winning” is all about goal setting, preparation and time management, “achieving” involves a lot more to do with our mind. The author touches upon most important aspects such as creating a positive attitude, watching our thought patterns, cultivating a high self-esteem, importance of self-discipline, overcoming self-imposed limitations etc. He explains each of these aspects through interesting anecdotes from his personal experiences as well as popular stories. Each chapter ends with 3-4 questions to reflect on where we stand and journal about how we could improve.

What I loved the most about this book is that the author has included the importance of values, ethics, integrity and character in a book on “achieving more”. On the contrary, what we see in the real world today is people giving up on their values, losing integrity and spoiling their character, all for the sake of “achievement” as defined by the society. The example I keep repeating in my blog often is that of food bloggers shamelessly promoting junk foods in their social media posts, just so that they can earn extra bucks for their holiday abroad.

The book is filled with many powerful quotes, that it is hard to pick my top 5 favourites. But let me share a few:
“Stability of mind is more important than education, wealth or even status”
“Perfection is an illusion. However, in the pursuit of perfection, we end up attaining excellence”
“Adversity reveals more character than it builds”
“When we learn to distinguish between a problem and an inconvenience, we learn to distinguish between little and crucial, and petty and trivial”
“A person becomes good when he actually does good, rather than not doing wrong”

The only area where this book is lacking is a structure or a flow to showcase how the content is presented. Many relevant topics are covered, but they don’t seem to be linked in a logical flow. So at the end of the book, it is hard to recollect a path or a framework to associate the topics. 

Leaving that aside, it is a relevant read for all of us in the present context. It is imperative we take a deep look at ourselves to reflect on areas that are important to our growth and to build a life of excellence.

P.S. The book was sent to me by Flipkart as part of their "bloggers initiative". The review is my honest and unbiased feedback on the book.

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