I was at the supermarket the other day, innocently roaming the produce section, when my attention was seized by a display of candy apples. They were the good kind – gigantic from layers of chocolate and caramel – and sat fat and gloating under the cardboard mantra, “Healthy never tasted… this good!” Wait. I blinked, my neurons struggling to catch up from the cognitive dissonance. I’d had apples like that. They were absolutely delicious, but definitely not healthy. The advertising won as I went in for a closer look.
Of course, what I found wasn’t all that surprising. Don’t get me wrong, all the “NATURAL antioxidants and fiber PLUS benefits of dark chocolate” was there, it was just encased in one of the most artery clogging packages imaginable. Consider that in a single serving, the celebrated 2 grams of fiber (8% daily value) is balanced by 7g (35%) of saturated fat and 19g (60%) of sugar. Now look at the serving size: an eighth of the entire apple! One of these apples a day would definitely keep the cardiologist busy.
Now let me clarify: I have nothing against candy apples. Truth be told, they’re one of my favorite desserts – especially the ones loaded with chocolate and caramel (Oreos don’t hurt, either). My problem is only when these things are marketed as health foods. Americans are overwhelmed with the stress of healthy eating these days. We’re so bombarded by ad campaigns intent on stripping away our ability for independent thought, any message that offers a helping hand is accepted at face value. This “I’ll take your word for it” mentality leaves the door wide open for products like the Triple Chocolate Sensation apple (or Diet Coke or Subway sandwiches), that let us keep binging without the nuisance of guilt.
I did a little more research into Tastee Apple, the company behind the Triple Chocolate Sensation that caught my eye, and found more of the same marketing strategy. Their website is loaded with health claims ranging from the low cholesterol of caramel to the dental benefits of raw apples. None of it’s untrue, but it’s all misleading. As long as people continue to eat for superfluous reasons – health or convenience, for example – they’ll remain at the whim of clever marketers. Only once we slow down enough to eat consciously, for its own sake, will we be able to see a candy apple for the wonderful sugar bomb it actually is.