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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How do we choose the products we do for TV?

As I get older, not much surprises me, but today after filming a 3 minute segment for SUNRISE at 6am this morning, I have been surprised at how much interest the segment has generated.

Companies whose products were included have been excited, consumers and weight conscious individuals are grateful for clear advice on which cereal they should spend their hard earned dollars on, while companies whose products were perhaps not looked on as favourably are indignant; "while we agree with your comments nutritionally we are 'disappointed' our products were placed in the "avoid" group".

Such interest and debate raises the question, and rightfully so, how do the products featured on a live TV segment get selected?

First of all, I would like to say that as a nutritionist who is regularly asked to comment in the media on specific brands and food products, I take this role very seriously. I can honestly say that I know each and every product I recommend back to front nutritionally and I recommend each and every one for very specific reasons. I actually work in clinical practice and see hundreds of clients each year, primarily for weight control and hence can draw on this knowledge to direct people towards which products work best and why.

It also needs to be remembered that in the background, scientific research is published on a daily basis in which certain nutrient criteria eg low fat, low GI, high protein dietary profiles are linked to various disease states and weight control - such information is also then used to mould various dietary models with specific food brands in clinical practice.

When it comes to breakfast cereals there are a few things that instantly spring to mind. First of all, of all the scientific evidence available, low glycaemic load diets are powerfully linked to weight control long term. In order to achieve a low GL diet, if breakfast cereal is included it HAS to be a small serve of low GI cereal.

Next, as so many of us eat too much, and are hence battling weight issues, every single one of our calories needs to count, which means that we do not have room for empty calories coming from sugary, nutrient poor foods, even if they are low in fat, or high in protein. Based on this, when I am considering the best breakfast cereal options, my number 2 question is, "what does it offer nutritionally?". For me to feel comfortable naming it and recommending it to my clients the cereal has to offer a number of positive qualities, and for breakfast cereals this means being low GI, wholegrain, source of fibre a controlled carbohydrate load per serve.

So, when we then take this information and look at the breakfast cereals readily available, it does not make it difficult to choose the good ones. Oats of course are there, as is plain bran and wholegrain breakfast biscuits. Naturally, sugary, chocolate breakfast cereals are never going to be good, no matter how much "good stuff" manufacturers claim to put back into it, nor are highly refined varieties of rice and corn which are high GI, the number 1 criteria I am looking for when it comes to breakfast cereals.

So, as you can see, quite a lot of thought goes into selecting these products, it is not based on personal preference or sponsorship, it comes down to basic science and dietary modelling. And this means that sometimes I do have to be the one to say that a certain food should be avoided, even though when it comes to chocolate breakfast cereal, I am sure that you didnt really need a nutritionist to tell you that it was not the best choice, deep down, you probably knew it already :)