Thursday, November 15, 2007

Heart and Stroke Dietitians - Asleep at the Switch?

Remember that Calendar from the Heart and Stroke Foundation? The one that had recipes with butter, non-skimmed milk and regular soy sauce? Well, here's another example from that calendar of why you might think that the Heart and Stroke's dietitians aren't paying too much attention to their recommendations - December's Chewy Cinnamon Oat Cookies.

My wife made those cookies yesterday. Putting aside the fact that the Heart and Stroke Foundation seemingly prefers you eat almost a half cup of sugar rather than zero-calorie sweeteners (artificially sweetened juices can't apply for Health Checks) and recommended 3 tablespoons of canola oil rather than go half and half with something like apple sauce, and adds a tremendous amount of raisins and cranberries, those aren't the weird parts. The weird part is the fact that the recipe says it makes 48 cookies. It says that because it instructs you to use a teaspoon to dole out the dough.

Really? A teaspoon?

Recognizing that a teaspoon of dough wouldn't even yield a cookie the size of a Ritz cracker my wife decided to use a tablespoon. Doing that didn't make giant cookies, it made pretty normal sized cookies. Here's a picture:

So why do I care about the size of the cookies?

By allowing the recipe writer to use a teaspoon as a measure for a cookie the Heart and Stroke Foundation is helping to mislead chefs into thinking these are low calorie cookies, which they certainly are not. Make them out of a tablespoon and now each cookie will have 124 Calories - nearly double the calories of a President's Choice "The Decadent" Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Of course if their dietitians had asked that the sugar be replaced with a zero calorie sweetener and the canola oil with apple sauce and the raisins/cranberries cut in half which is what my wife decided to do, that would have cut the Calories by close to 40% - something you might have thought the Heart and Stroke Foundation would have wanted done given the contribution of obesity to heart disease and strokes and the contribution of calories to obesity (though I imagine cutting the canola oil out of the oilseed industry sponsored Calendar might be challenging).

Now I'm not advocating a life without cookies, but why is the Heart and Stroke Foundation making things tougher by publishing recipes with ridiculously small unrealistic portion sizes that grossly misrepresent and underestimate calories and why aren't they making any apparent effort at publishing recipes designed to trim down sugar and fat?

My guess?

No one ever bothered to even look at them.

[UPDATE - just received an email from my wife,

"Just made another batch of cookies: Splenda instead of white sugar, applesauce instead of oil, half the raisins/cranberries they called for, whole wheat flour instead of white, unpacked brown sugar instead of packed. Using the same scoop (tablespoon) and making 20 cookies again, got them down to 54 calories each. Not bad."
So for you chefs out there - the cookies actually taste pretty good and at 54 calories each, not bad either.

Thanks honey]