• According to food experts I consulted (random people on Twitter); granola is approximately 30 per cent sugar. (Alan Benson)Source: Alan Benson
From granola to the humble avocado, how do we even know what's good for us?
By
Osman Faruqi

2 Jun 2016 - 12:35 PM  UPDATED 2 Jun 2016 - 2:30 PM

Breakfast is the bane of my existence. Overpriced and overdecorated food served in arcane vessels is enough to turn most sensible people away from the alleged “most important meal of the day”.  Historically I’ve rarely eaten it, in a futile attempt to save time in the morning and manage my calorie consumption.

A few months ago I decided to give the hated meal a more serious go, but with a specific focus on healthy food. So instead of peanut butter on toast or eggs benedict I picked something healthier sounding: Granola with yoghurt and fruit.

It was great. Delicious, energising and, so I thought, actually good for me.

Wrong.

As it turns out this tasty, organic and agile meal is actually one of the worst things you can eat for breakfast. According to food experts I consulted (random people on Twitter); granola is approximately 30 per cent sugar. 30 per cent!

I don’t know why but for some reason I assumed granola was just some sort of special, tasty form of oats. I didn’t realise that its intense, sugary flavour reminiscent of sugar actually came from… sugar.

So there I was, a victim of my own sincere attempt to be healthy. The whole shocking experience got me thinking about the confusing nature of healthy food debates. It seems like we’re regularly bombarded with mixed messaging, contradictory science, fad diets and sneaky advertising campaigns that make it quite hard for the average person to tell what exactly healthy food is.

It seems like we’re regularly bombarded with mixed messaging, contradictory science, fad diets and sneaky advertising campaigns.

For example, let’s take a look at the humble avocado. On one hand, they are a fruit. Fruit is supposed to healthy for you, isn’t it? But on the other hand, they are high in fat. And fat is bad. Or is it?

A recent report published by the National Obesity Forum in the United Kingdom declared “Eating fat does not make you fat.” The report argued that much of the advice dispensed by public health bodies on healthy eating was, in fact, wrong. Instead of worrying about fat, wannabe healthy eaters should embrace it and instead reject carbohydrates.

Low-carbohydrate intake is a key part of the Atkins diet that found fame amongst Hollywood celebrities and Bondi identities in the late 2000’s. But Atkins has been jettisoned in favour of trendier eating styles like the paleo diet and the 5:2 diet.

So the world of dieting is incredibly complex and confusing, with contested theories, some backed up with science, operating as sort of clashing ideologies.

But what if you aren’t looking to diet, but just make sure the regular meals you eat are as healthy as possible? Turns out it’s just challenging.

Not only do we receive mixed information about what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating, there are substantial costs involved in eating healthy.

An ANU study in 2014 found that the cost of eating healthily was 30 per cent higher than maintaining an unhealthy diet, and that the price of healthy food was a key reason why two thirds of Australians were obese or overweight.

The world of dieting is incredibly complex and confusing, with contested theories, some backed up with science, operating as sort of clashing ideologies.

Additionally, the cost of healthy eating was continuing to increase and at a faster rate than disposable incomes.

A more recent study found that eating a healthy diet was unaffordable for many low-income earners across Australia.

In an age where we are continually bombarded with government funded advertisements reminding us of the need to eat healthy, it seems very unusual that there is so much scientific debate about what that actually means. Is it any wonder I got caught up in the great granola trap?
 
Should I be eating something simpler like avocado on toast for breakfast? According to the above studies some experts say yes, some say no. This confusion isn’t help tackle rising incidences of chronic, health related illness across the community. And how did we get a point where trying to be healthy and nutritious became a significant cost burden?  The whole food industry seems topsy turvy and upside down. Someone needs to fix it.

In the meantime I’m going back to skipping breakfast. It’s cheaper, healthier (maybe) and far less stressful than accidentally pumping myself full of sugar every morning.

Watch on SBS On Demand: When healthy eating goes too far

Food for thought
Is our wellness obsession the end of eating for pleasure?
The modern wellness movement might have hooked us on green juice and maca power and made healthy eating pleasurable but is its version of nourishment is still depressingly limited, writes Neha Kale.
A healthy diet is cheaper than junk food but a good diet is still too expensive for some
Is the cost of maintaining a healthy diet too much for some budgets?
How much sugar is it OK to eat?
Even health foods and condiments can significantly contribute to your daily dose of sugar if you're not careful.