Baker fights back in low-carb debate

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Most British mothers say they know enough about nutrition to give
their children a balanced diet, but most of them are unable to
identify what foods make up such a diet, claims British baker
Warburtons, making a stand for starchy foods in the increasingly
heated debate over the merits of low-carb diets.

A survey carried out on behalf of Warburtons shows that while 82 per cent of mothers in the UK claim to know enough about nutrition, only 26 per cent of them were able to correctly identify a daily balanced diet.

With bread, and in particular its carbohydrate content, increasingly in the spotlight in the UK as a result of the Atkins diet fad, bakers such as Warburtons are keen to stress the health credentials of their products - or at least point the finger at the low-carb lobby for confusing rather than clarifying the nutritional debate.

"Could it be that the weekly celebrity slimming recommendations and constant new diet crazes like Atkins may be affecting the judgement of mums across the UK? Is the age of the diet fad overkill upon us?"​ Warburtons asks.

The baker clearly thinks so. "Particular confusion surrounds the importance of starchy foods as part of a balanced diet,"​ it said. "Almost half of all mums (48 per cent) believed that starchy foods should make up a quarter or less of our diet overall. The reality is that we need about a third of our diet to come from starchy foods, preferably wholegrain, for a balanced approach and meals should be based on these starchy foods."

Parents should be more concerned about the sugar and fat contents of their childrens' diets, the baker suggests. "Three out of five mums didn't know that fatty and sugary foods should not make up more than about a twelfth of our suggested daily eating pattern,"​ Warburtons said.

The baker also did its bit to promote toast as a healthy way to start the day. "When mums were asked to consider what they thought would give their children the best start to the day, huge importance was placed on breakfast cereals (86 per cent). But in light of the recent​ Which? magazine investigation into breakfast cereals [which found that many were very high in both sugar and salt], mums should consider cereal choices carefully.

"Worryingly an alternative healthy recommendation, such as toast with a topping, was recognised by only 2 per cent of mums as being a good start to the day," the company said.

Warburtons cited dietitian Sian Porter, who suggested that "mums shouldn't be swayed by the ever increasing number of alternative diet suggestions around. This is especially true for mums whose children are about to undertake SATs [assessment tests]. The importance of a good start to the day is supported by a wealth of research including one recent study showing that eating breakfast can help school children's concentration and memory over the morning."

Warburtons is not the first starchy food producer to take a stand against the Atkins fad, and it is unlikely to be the last, but its fear that bread and other 'high-carb' products could be demonised by such diets is a very real one.

The risk is that the high-profile marketing of diets such as Atkins, or headline-hitting reports about the 'risks' associated with fatty or sugary foods will obscure the underlying message that no food is intrinsically bad for consumers' health, provided it is eaten as part of a balanced diet.

The Atkins fad is likely to be just that - a relatively short-lived phenomenon - but if consumers are left with the understanding that starchy foods such as bread is somehow bad for them, the repercussions of Atkins could be felt for far longer than the fad itself.

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