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No nonsense list of foods

Consumers are often confused by misleading dietary claims made by food manufacturers. Researchers from the University of Otago in Christchurch have published a list of 49 foods that they describe as NEEDNT (non-essential, energy dense, nutritionally deficient) foods.

The list is not aimed at the general public but at health professionals who are working with obese patients in a clinical setting. However, the nutritional information in the list is relevant to any normal diet.

Simplify the food information

Lead author Dr Jane Elmslie explains, “What we wanted to do was simplify the information, clarify which foods contain empty calories, because you still have to eat, and it’s very important that what you eat contains essential nutrients. We wanted to encourage healthy eating.”

The utility of the list was trialled with a group of overweight research participants. The researchers also sought feedback from dieticians and medical students.

Researcher Dr Ria Schorder says, “We can see that, for both health professionals and people with obesity wanting to lose weight, the list can be a useful tool. We’re really excited to finally have the list published in a medical journal.” The list was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal on 24 February 2012.

How the list was compiled

The list was compiled using the National Heart Foundation and Diabetes New Zealand ‘Foods to Avoid’, ‘Stop Eating’ and ‘Optional Foods’ lists and the Canterbury District Health Board ‘Supermarket Shopping Guide’. Foods and beverages were included if they contained alcohol, saturated fat or added sugar, were prepared using a high-fat cooking method or contained a large amount of energy relative to their essential nutrient value. As it has no energy value, salt was not a criterion for inclusion on the list.

Useful links

To view the complete list of NEEDNT foods, go to the University of Otago’s website. external link

Activity idea

Your students may like to calculate their RMR (resting metabolic rate) and use this to calculate the energy cost of various activities. They can use this to work out their average daily energy expenditure and relate this to the foods on the list discussed in this news article.
Calculating RMR and daily energy output