The NEEDNT list of 49 foods was developed by researchers at the University of Otago as part of a treatment research programme for obesity and released last week publicly in national media.
Containing food products such as muesli bars, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, cookies and jams, the list was developed primarily to aid obese people more clearly identify those foods that are best avoided.
It contains foods that are energy dense or high in fat or added sugars, and foods that are prepared using a high-fat cooking method, such as frying or roasting.
“This list of 49 common foods is a simple quick check to help guide the general public and health professionals to differentiate nutritious foods from those that are merely high calorie,” said lead researcher and nutritionist, Dr Jane Elmslie.
Stressing that this is not just another list of high-calorie foods, Elmslie said that not only are the foods on the list high in calories, they are also low in essential nutrients, or can be replaced by lower calorie more nutritious alternatives.
What to eat…
Elmslie pointed out that for the common person, it is a struggle to know what to eat if they have a weight problem. “The advice out there is often complicated and contradictory. It can be quite difficult to understand the relevance of health-related product endorsements and the information on food labels.”
Elmslie gave the example of muesli bars, which overweight people are misled into thinking of as a healthy food. “In fact most muesli bars are high in calories, and fat and sugar, with minimal nutritional value.”
Katherine Rich, chief of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council told FoodNavigator-Asia that though the NEEDNT initiative is well intentioned and may be of use to health professionals, but it’s of limited use to everyday people.
“For the public, the report isn’t that helpful in that it targets individual foods without putting them into the context of a balanced diet. Having a piece of honey on the toast in the morning is perfectly ok in the context of a balanced diet,” she said.
Rich remarked that the issue around obesity, and foods high in sugar, fat, and salt needs more common sense. “Manufacturers of food on the list would certainly not recommend anyone eats 100% of their product in large quantities all of the time.”
According to Rich, if eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, all foods have a part in the diet. “Moderation is the key. Perhaps that’s what they should have called the list MODERATION rather than NEEDNT.”