Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Fat List: 49 foods to avoid

A New Zealand study is claiming 49 foods should be avoided to fight obesity. Don't worry, ordinary yoghurt is safe. Photo / Getty
A New Zealand study is claiming 49 foods should be avoided to fight obesity. Don't worry, ordinary yoghurt is safe. Photo / Getty

A blacklist of foods heavy on calories but light on nutrition has been drawn up to help combat obesity - and honey, muesli bars, whole milk and frozen yoghurt are all included.

Otago University researchers developed the list of 49 "Needn't" foods, published in today's New Zealand Medical Journal, as part of a treatment research programme for obesity.

They stress the list is a guide to help obese people identify which foods could be cut from their diet.

But others say it could be a step towards imposing higher taxes and other measures on junk food.

"Needn't" foods are high in fat or added sugars, prepared using a high-fat cooking method such as frying, or have a large amount of energy compared to their essential nutrient content.

Some are on the blacklist because there is an easy and healthier alternative, such as substituting skim milk for whole milk.

Others, such as honey, would not be a concern if included in a healthy person's diet.

"Honey is great stuff. But what I hear people tell me is, 'I don't have sugar, I have honey'. But honey is a form of sugar," lead researcher Dr Jane Elmslie said.

The list includes the usual suspects such as pies and doughnuts, but Dr Elmslie, a dietitian, said some foods red-flagged were less obvious.

Muesli bars were often viewed as healthy but were high in calories, fat and sugar, without much nutritional value.

"Essentially they are just another form of biscuit ... Muesli bars are a classic example of how overweight people can be misled into thinking they're eating healthy food."

Frozen yoghurt has a very high sugar content compared to normal yoghurt, vegetable crisps are "fried to within an inch of their life", and even "lite" syrup in canned fruit was too much sugar, Dr Elmslie said.

Cheese wasn't included - despite its high fat content - because it was an "essential source of calcium".

Dr Elmslie said the list was designed so that GPs and other clinicians could give "something black and white" to obese people to let them know what foods they could avoid.

She and other staff at the National Addictions Centre were concerned nutritional information could be confusing and wanted to single out foods both high in energy and low in nutritional value.

The list of 49 foods was compiled using food lists and information from the National Heart Foundation, Diabetes New Zealand, and the Canterbury District Health Board.

Honey NZ manager Greig Duncan said he didn't think honey should be lumped into the same category as cakes and pies.

Honey had a much slower insulin release rate than sugar, which made it a healthier alternative, and had many other health benefits important for a balanced diet.

"Because honey is such a natural product, it has a lot of bioactivity which is all part of a natural diet. Then you get into Manuka honey which has a whole other lot of benefits."

Fight the Obesity Epidemic director Dr Robyn Toomath said she was sceptical as to how much the list could help change individuals' eating habits.

However, she said that by identifying both unhealthy and nutritionally empty foods, the researchers had shown how it might be possible to target the products through measures such as taxation.

A Health Ministry-commissioned Otago University survey released last September found that 37 per cent of New Zealand adults were overweight and 28 per cent obese.

The proportion overweight has been increasing slowly but steadily, from 34 per cent in 1977. The obese category has expanded much faster, nearly tripling from 10 per cent in the same period.

Food Blacklist

With suggested replacements (* = omit entirely):
1. Alcoholic drinks Water/diet soft drinks
2. Biscuits *
3. Butter, lard, dripping or similar fat (used as a spread or in
baking/cooking etc.) Lite margarine or similar spread or omit
4. Cakes *
5. Chocolate *
6. Coconut cream Lite coconut milk/coconut flavoured lite evaporated milk
7. Condensed milk *
8. Cordial Water/Sugar free cordial
9. Corn chips *
10. Cream (including crème fraiche) Natural yoghurt (or flavoured yoghurt depending on use)
11. Crisps (including vegetable crisps) *
12. Desserts/puddings *
13. Doughnuts *
14. Drinking Chocolate, Milo etc. Cocoa plus artificial sweetener
15. Energy drinks Water
16. Flavoured milk/milkshakes Trim, Calcitrim or Lite Blue Milk
17. Fruit tinned in syrup (even lite syrup!) Fruit tinned in juice/artificially sweetened
18. Fried food Boiled, grilled or baked food
19. Frozen yoghurt Ordinary yoghurt
20. Fruit juice (except tomato juice and unsweetened
blackcurrant juice) Fresh fruit (apple, orange, pear etc. + a drink!)
21. Glucose Artificial sweetener
22. High fat crackers (more than 10g fat per 100g) Lower fat crackers (less than 10g fat per 110g)
23. Honey *
24. Hot chips *
25. Ice cream *
26. Jam *
27. Marmalade *
28. Mayonnaise Lite dressings/lite mayonnaise
29. Muesli bars *
30. Muffins *
31. Nuts roasted in fat or oil Dry roasted or raw nuts (less than 1 handful per day)
32. Pastries *
33. Pies *
34. Popcorn with butter or oil Air popped popcorn
35. Quiches Crust-less quiches
36. Reduced cream Natural yoghurt
37. Regular luncheon sausage Low fat luncheon sausage
38. Regular powdered drinks (e.g. Raro) Water/Diet/Sugar free powdered drinks
39. Regular salami Low fat salami
40. Regular sausages Low fat sausages
41. Regular soft drinks Water/Diet soft drinks
42. Rollups Fresh fruit
43. Sour cream Natural yoghurt
44. Sugar (added to anything including drinks, baking, cooking
etc.) Artificial sweetener
45. Sweets/lollies *
46. Syrups such as golden syrup, treacle, maple syrup Artificial sweetener
47. Toasted muesli and any other breakfast cereal with more than 15g sugar per 100g cereal Breakfast cereal with less than 15g sugar per 100g cereal, more than 6g fibre
per 100g cereal and less 5g fat per 100g cereal (or less than 10 g fat per
100g cereal if cereal contains nuts and seeds)

48. Whole Milk Trim, Calcitrim or Lite Blue Milk
49. Yoghurt type products with 10g sugar per 100g yoghurt Yoghurt (not more than one a day

- NZ Herald

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