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Nutritional math doesn't add up

On a recent visit to my doctor, she pointed out that I now weigh more than the SUV I drive, and while her comments were very subtle, I believe I sensed she was suggesting I should consider losing a few pounds.

On a recent visit to my doctor, she pointed out that I now weigh more than the SUV I drive, and while her comments were very subtle, I believe I sensed she was suggesting I should consider losing a few pounds. On my way home, I stopped at local drive-thru for a double mushroom burger and milkshake, which gave me time to consider her advice.

A number of years ago, I did go on a diet for a few months but I found I needed to be on two diets at the same time, as I wasn’t getting enough to eat. Despite this previous failure, I know that doctors are god-like creatures that never make mistakes, so I decided to follow her instructions.

Since the good doctor had given me a plan that included limiting my calorie intake, I decided my first step needed to be a quick trip to the grocery store to stock up on information. I started with checking the calorie count of Canada’s four basic food groups: chocolate, ice cream, butter tarts and potato chips. As I feared, the numbers were relatively high and unless I wanted to survive by eating nothing but one potato chip a day, I realized I needed different food.

As I checked additional items, such as popcorn, cinnamon buns, waffles and pizza, I was pleasantly surprised: calorie counts were nowhere near what I had feared. In fact, it looked like I could easily increase the volume of items I had been eating, and yet lose weight. I was as close to heaven as I will ever get. The next item I picked up was a personal favourite: a popcorn brand that claims it will also make you “smart”. Again, the calorie count looked remarkably low. It was at this point I got the shock of my life. The calorie count shown (50) was not for the whole bag — it was for 1/27th of the bag!

Now I have a good mind for mathematics, but I swear I wouldn’t know how to eat 1/27th of anything, nor is it likely I would stop at one. If one makes me smart, two makes me smarter, and so on, and within seconds the bag is empty. A quick calculation showed this one bag of popcorn had a total of 1,350 calories. For those of you keeping score, that’s enough energy to propel the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln for 29 days.

As I retraced my steps, I found I had erred on all of the items I checked. The cinnamon bun with 27 calories was for only 13.8 grams out of the total weight of 412.45 grams. Since I had long since run out of toes and fingers to count, I had to buy a calculator from the store to figure out this item was just more than 800 calories in total (or it might be 4.12 trillion calories — the calculator’s quality was somewhat suspect). Every item I checked had the same pattern. While many of the items were items that one would eat entirely at one sitting, the calorie count was for some obscure fraction of the total. You seldom see someone eat 1/19th of a donut or 1/23rd of a pancake, yet calorie counts were for these bizarre portions.

I think one should be hesitant to buy a food product from a manufacturer who attempts to manipulate the information into tricking the customer to buy a product that the consumer would otherwise avoid if they knew the truth.

Brian McLeod is happy to report that “smart” popcorn does work: he is now smart enough to avoid ever buying this product again.