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New York's Official State Snack Far From Wholesome?

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Last week, after New York State senators passed a proposal to designate yogurt as the "official state snack", certain media had a field day mocking what some found to be a colossal waste of tax payers time and money. The Daily Show with John Stewart couldn't help but draw up a segment highlighting the absurdity of a seemingly meaningless debate on the senate floor.

The mockery makes sense. First of all, why are our representatives spending their time promoting the idea of "snacking" in the first place when, according to the USDA, snacking may be contributing to the incidence of overweight and obesity in American children? According to their research, daily calories from children's snacks have increased by almost 200 calories over the last 35 years.

But even if this weren't so, and even if snacking were doing no harm, the kind of snack that these representatives are promoting is far from a wholesome one.

Official Snack Is Dessert-Like
Proclaiming yogurt as an official state snack is a terribly misguided proposal, since the majority of yogurt on the market today is full of added sugars (the average 6oz cup of low fat, fruit-filled yogurt contains about a quarter or more, of the add sugar found in a 12oz can of Coke). And we know what excessive added sugar can do. If you take the time to read the ingredient list of many of your favorite yogurt brands (with the exception of "plain" yogurt), you'll likely see the words "sugar", "sucralose", "vanilla-flavored syrup", "high fructose corn syrup", "dextrose" or other terms that mean the same thing: refined sugar was added to your product. The saddest part is those yogurts marketed to kids tend to have the most added sugars.

Given that our senators didn't take the time on the Senate floor to make a distinction about what types of yogurt they were proposing for the official state snack (for example, are they referring to just fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts, or yogurt with toppings attached, or Greek yogurt, or non-fat yogurt?), all kinds of sugar-filled yogurts are fair game under this proposal. So for all intents and purposes, what may officially become an official state snack may be something that represents a sweet dessert more than anything nourishing.

A Processed "Official" Snack
A processed sweet dessert that is. It should certainly be brought to senators' attention if they do not already know, that most commercial yogurts are some of the most highly processed foods in grocery stores today. Here is a list of common additives and preservatives found in many name-brand yogurts (with the exception of "plain" yogurt):

- Inulin
- Asparatame
- Red #40
- Yellow #6
- Blue #1
-Corn starch
-Calcium lactate
-Acesulfame potassium
-Acacia gum
-Tricalcium phosphate

To keep things in perspective, when yogurt was first invented, likely by pastoral, nomadic tribes centuries before Christ, and firmly adopted by the peoples of the Balkans, it was composed of just two ingredients direct from Mother Nature, not from a lab: milk and bacteria. It wouldn't be until a couple thousand years later when in 1947, Danone decided to add a fruit jam to the mix.

Not All Bacteria Beneficial
As another side note, although there certainly are beneficial bacteria in all kinds of yogurt, namely the two most popular strains called S. Thermophilus and L. Bulgaricus, there are other strains of isolated cultures, some patented by yogurt manufacturers, that claim to "boost" immunity athat continually show up on ingredient lists of popular yogurt brands despite the fact that research hasn't proved they do much of anything.

And last but not least, what to make of the discussion of sustainability when it comes to yogurt? Why aren't these senators debating the health and planetary issues that go along with the production of mass amounts of yogurt -- the factory farming of these animals and conventional feed vs. pasture-raising and the associated environmental costs? Making mass quantities of yogurt, even organic yogurt, have loads of hidden disadvantages.

New York State Senators, please take more time to understand the true nature of the snack you're trying to put on a glorious pedestal. Yes, we realize that New York state is the country's biggest processor of yogurt, but that by no means warrants we make it "official" or special when it doesn't deserve it.

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References:

http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2012-december/gobbling-up-snacks-cause-or-potential-cure-for-childhood-obesity.aspx#.U2_ZMF7B_wI

pp. 147-165, Mottl, Pooja, The 3-Day Reset, Berkeley, California: Seal Press, 2014

 
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