As consumers, it’s easy for us to fixate on the flashy labeling of a new diet and disregard facts — nutrition facts.
Always distinguish between dietary restrictions for specific conditions and recommendations meant to help everyone.
Each of us processes food differently. Removal of gluten is essential for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, simply removing gluten from everyone’s diet is not the answer for quick weight loss or improved health.
Let’s elaborate using a chocolate chip cookie. You can find ones that meet specifications of just about any diet restriction or trend out there. But what happens when you compare their actual nutrition facts?
Establish a Baseline and Compare
A standard chocolate chip cookie contains about 250 calories, more than 12 grams of fat, about and almost 34 grams of carbs. In this comparison, we’ll be fair, and refer to a cookie that’s the same serving size in each case. All are based on easy-to-find recipes online that include nutritional information for each.
When we contrast the standard cookie with a gluten-free cookie recipe, the differences are pretty slim: a mere 4 grams of sugar and 10 calories less for the one without gluten. Since the only real difference in the recipes is the removal of flour, it’s not a big surprise, nutritionally.
Vegan cookies are even higher in calories (334 versus 250), fat (20 to 12 grams) and carbs (24 to 21). Unfortunately, the vegan alternatives for many common cookie ingredients make the end products higher in sugar, fat and salt. That’s one of the reason this lifestyle can be trickier than it might first appear.
Chocolate chip cookies that fit the Paleo diet do have a few less calories (231 compared to 25) and much less sugar (6 grams) but they also pack a lot more fat – 19 grams of it. The keto “fat bomb” recipes popular now would be similar in terms of fat content.
Make Sure Facts Fuel Choices – Not Fads
People with an intolerance or celiac disease must of course stick with their restrictions. But clearly we cannot assume that following a trendy diet or restricting specific foods means we’re always eating healthy.
To add insult to calorie overload, when we associate the term “healthy” with these dietary restrictions and trends, practicing self-control is even harder. This goes for all food choices, not just sweets and desserts.
We must all be more aware and remember to always compare the facts on the labels!
Wanting a treat now and again is natural. But we should remember that when it comes to cookies – be they gluten-free, vegan, keto, low FODMAP – they’re still cookies.
Author and South Dakota State University student Lauren Anderson is a dietetic intern working with Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, at Avera Heart Hospital.