Taxing Junk Food

Can Globesity be Glo-Cured?

Taxing Junk Food

If that bag of chips cost 25% more, would you still buy it?

If a bottle of soda ran you more than a bottle of water, would you opt for the healthier drink on a hot summer's day?

If the cost of a drive-thru dinner for a family of 4 jumped to $50, would you head home for soup and sandwiches instead?

I would.  But I'm cheap frugal.

This is the idea behind the so-called "junk food tax" that's been proposed and supported by various organizations and health professionals.

On Tuesday, a computer-based study of 200 U.S. college students was released.  This study, conducted at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, found that the students generally "bought" (or would buy, as real purchases were not actually made in this study) lower-calorie lunch items when sugary, high-fat fare was taxed 25% or more.

"The most important finding of our study is that a tax of 25% or more on (high-calorie) foods makes nearly everyone buy fewer calories," says the study's leader, Janneke Giesen.

The exception in this study: about 50% of the students were given nutrition information, including calorie counts, on the foods being offered in the hypothetical "lunch".  Those who were aware of calorie counts (and especially those who identified as already being conscious of their calorie consumption on a daily basis) were not swayed by the tax.  They chose lower-calorie meals regardless of price. 

Not all of us are so virtuous.  If we can't motivate ourselves intrinsically to choose lighter fare, can we be motivated by financial cost? 

And what does it say about our society that we are better motivated by a cost-savings than by our own physical wellness? 

Truly, food is a terribly addictive thing.  Maybe, like cutting off a drug addict from financial support, forcing a junk food addict to absorb an increased cost could be just the thing to get them off the crack.  And by "crack" I mean McDonalds.

I think we'd be hard pressed to find a person willing to sell his/her body to support a Big Mac addiction.  But you get the idea....

Money talks.

Proponents of the junk food tax suggest the revenue could be used to offset the enormous healthcare costs resulting from obesity-related illnesses.  In 2010, the Fédération 
des médecins spécialistes du Québec (Federation of Medical Specialists of Quebec) started an online campaign to raise a 15% junk food tax which they suggested would raise $350 million per year for Quebec.  Imagine the scale on a national level.

In Canada, where more than 50% of us are overweight or obese, the direct and indirect cost of obesity is estimated at  $ 2-5 billion per year.

Per year.

I'm going to leave it at that, except to give you my honest opinion:

Tax the crap out of junk food.  And before you tell me that lower income households are forced to choose unhealthy fare for financial reasons, let me pre-empt you.  When times have been tight in my life, junk food and prepared food have been the first thing to go from my grocery list.  Lower income households around the world do not, on average, exist on a diet of french fries and boxed macaroni and cheese.  They eat vegetables, beans, rice, grains.  Less meat? Yes.  Less dairy?  Probably.  Fewer total calories?  Definitely.  But we North Americans could stand to consume less meat, dairy and calories - especially of the fried and wrapped in paper variety.  We need to learn how to cook again.  We need to spend time preparing and eating meals.  We in Canada have a social welfare state - a government whose purpose is to serve the collective socioeconomic needs of the population.  I think it's about time they did their job and help us stop killing ourselves. Clearly, we need the help.

Don't eat junk food, don't pay tax.  It's that simple.

What do you think?  Would a tax on junk food change your family's eating habits?  Do you think a junk food tax is an appropriate response to the "globesity" crisis?  Or does the idea of another tax make you want to bury your face in a bag of Doritos?


Read The Freaking Label

Slick Ad Execs vs. Clueless Mom

Read The Freaking Label

I can probably sum this blog up in one sentence: If it tastes like chocolate, smells like chocolate, and looks like chocolate, it's probably not that good for you.

Can I just interject with a completely unnecessary and maybe slightly inappropriate "YUM!"

God bless our friends to the south, but they will sue over just. about. anything.

San Diego mother of four Athena Hohenberg is suing Ferrero, the makers of Nutella, a hazelnut-chocolate spread, for its "dangerous levels of saturated fat and processed sugars".  Hohenberg claims she was tipped off by friends that Nutella is basically "the next best thing to a candy bar."

Once again, "YUM!"

Hohenberg argues that Nutella's advertising is misleading since it portrays Nutella as part of a balanced breakfast, implying it is "healthy" and "nutritious".  She claims as an average consumer she is not privy to the research findings that prove foods like Nutella can have negative health consequences. 

Are you #$@*! kidding me?

Okay, so big surprise - Ferrero has targeted us mummies in their advertising.  They know we're the ones who do the shopping and they know that kids are probably the biggest consumer of something as sweet and sugary as Nutella.  Do they claim Nutella is healthy?  Actually, no.  They employ an interesting strategy - they juxtapose Nutella with healthy foods so that healthy glow seems to rub off on Nutella.

They could show a bedraggled 40-something mother of 3 dipping a chocolate-chip cookie into a tub of Nutella while sprawled on the couch at 10 p.m.  This is the other way Nutella gets consumed, by the way. 

But it's COOL to be healthy in 2011.  So why not market Nutella to mothers as a "treat" to encourage kids to eat breakfast?  We'll figure out our own nasty ways to enjoy "private time" with the Nutella jar.  We don't need Ferrero to help us with that.

Here's what Ferrero has to say about Nutella and nutrition:

Create a meal of whole wheat toast or a whole-grain toaster waffle with Nutella® hazelnut spread, a small bowl of sliced strawberries and a glass of 1% milk for a good mix of morning nutrients.

When used in moderation with complementary foods, Nutella® can form a part of a balanced meal. It is a quick and easy way to encourage kids to eat whole grains, such as whole wheat toast, English muffins, toaster waffles and bagels.

And the ingredients, which are clearly labeled (by law) on every jar you, I or Ms. Athena Hohenberg purchase:

sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor.

Hmm.  Out of curiosity, what are the ingredients in a jar of Kraft Peanut Butter?

select roasted peanuts, soybean oil, corn dextrin, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt.

OK, OK, how about butter on that whole-grain toaster waffle instead?

cream, salt.

This blog is making me hungry.

Nutella is not the first less-than-stellar breakfast food to be marketed to mothers and children.  The point is, read the label.  Make your bed and then lie in it.  If you're going to spread sugar on your child's waffle in the morning, accept responsibility.  If you raise a child who wakes every morning to a chocolate breakfast, chances are she'll grow up to be a an adult with a taste for things chocolatey.  If you raise a child who wakes up every morning to bacon and eggs, chances are he'll grow up with a penchant for the silky taste of saturated fat.

Does this mean no Nutella?  No bacon?  I don't think so.  There is a time and a place for everything.  Perhaps Nutella falls more in the "dessert" category, but I believe if you raise a child who gets 90% of what they need and 10% of what they want, and lives a lifestyle of moderation, chances are he will grow up to understand that treats can be enjoyed but food is fuel.

In this day and age, there is no excuse for being unaware of a food's nutritional profile.  Advertisers are sneaky... but they are not responsible for your nutrition or your child's nutrition.  You are.

And - by the way - I don't eat Nutella.

What do you think?  Is Ferrero liable?  How do you draw the line between healthy foods and treats in your house?


Fitting Fitness Into Your Lunch Hour

Energize & Save Time with a Midday Sweat Session

Fitting Fitness Into Your Lunch Hour

lunch hour fitness

Hey you – with the cup of coffee, BlackBerry and protein bar in your hands.  Step away from the laptop and get some lunch!  After you read this blog, I mean.

This week, the great people at Gourmet Steamers If you’ve got 30 minutes for lunch:


\"\" Next, stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs to do Stair Push-ups.  Place hands on 3rd or 4th stair (the lower, the harder) about shoulder-width apart.  Inhale as you bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the stairs, then exhale as you press up.  Continue push-ups for 1 minute, then rest 1 minute and repeat for a second set.


\"\"Healthy Choice Complete your meal with a big glass of water or two.

Begin outside with a 15-minute power walk to get your heart rate up and send some exhilarating oxygen to your body and brain after a long morning.  Pump your arms and clear your mind.

\"\" Complete 1 minute of Stair Push-ups (described above).

\"\" Repeat stairs, push-ups and squats.


\"\"Healthy Choice are a great way to have a tasty lunch that's quick. Remember to take the time to enjoy your meal - away from your desk! 

\"\" Enjoy some quiet time to visit with colleagues, catch up on the latest Yummy Mummy Club blogs or dig into a good book.

Eating lunch isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. You deserve a break, and if your lunch is delicious and easy, you’re more likely to take it.

This blog is proudly sponsored by our friends at