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Burger and Fries  

Can burger and chips really be healthier than a bowl of cornflakes?

The Government have just completed an analysis of the nation's most popular healthy and un-healthy foods that we eat, and it has turned conventional wisdom on its head and declared that a burger with chips can be healthier than the average bowl of cornflakes. 

The least healthy product of all that we eat is Polyunsaturated margarine, when compared
gram-for-gram with other foodstuffs. 

A league table of more than 300 individual and processed foods that we eat has been drawn up by the Food Standards Agency and it gives foods a ranking between 26 down to minus 10 in accordance with their overall nutritional value.

Some critics say that it's a
very "confusing" and "nonsensical" model which gives high scores to foods that are widely accepted to be less healthy options. 

In general, previous analysis of healthy and non-healthy foodstuffs we eat have concentrated only on negative things like salt, sugar and fat, placing products like pizza, chips and burgers right down to the bottom of the league table.

In complete contrast, the Foods Standards Agency analysis factors in some positives like energy, protein and vitamin content to give a much more rounded result. These findings are quite surprising and are likely to provoke some future debate on what we should eat.

Some foods like oven chips, takeaway burgers, sliced white bread, supermarket chicken jalfrezi, and spaghetti in tomato sauce have been  ranked as healthier than some breakfast cereals, cheeses and olive oil.

The least healthy products revealed by the analysis are Polyunsaturated margarine and butter.

"There are some iconic foods we eat like burgers and chips which are not as unhealthy as one might assume," said Mike Rayner, director of the British Heart Foundation health promotion research group at Oxford University, which produced the model for the Foods Standards Agency.

"If they are made with just a little fat, they can offer fiber, protein and vitamin and contribute to a balanced diet."

Mike Rayner said the margarine was likely to have scored badly because the model did not factor in polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.

A lot of breakfast cereals come out badly, with many brands ranking below that of takeaway sausages, chicken nuggets, doughnuts and chips. 

Along with cornflakes, sugar-coated puffed wheat cereal and bran cereal are ruled unhealthy options, largely because of their high sugar and salt content and lack of many nutritional positives. 

A bizzare twist in the league table, ranks a glass of Cola healthier than a milkshake, and fudge cake made with chocolate healthier to eat than streaky fried bacon. 

At the top of the table 

Lentils boiled in unsalted water, tofu that has been steamed and baked beans with reduced sugar and salt. 

At the bottom of the table

Butter and margarine, cheesecake and corn snacks with spicy flavorings. 

The nutritional "profile" system has been developed to be used by Ofcom, the broadcast watchdog, as it considers whether to impose restrictions on advertising junk food to children.

Mike Rayner accepted there were anomalies, but said he was satisfied that the new system was "robust". 

He said that, "Anything with a high fat, sugar or salt content does badly in the model because the government has decided that these are the priority issues with regard to nutrition and health,". 

Some food manufacturers said last week that they would strongly oppose the model being used for any nutritional advice. 

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drink Federation said: "The model tries to distil a product's nutritional value into one single score, so the products we eat like cereals score quite badly despite containing some very good nutrients like fiber and protein. 

"We are disappointed that an opportunity to take a scientific and objective approach to this important issue has actually been lost."

The Foods Standards Agency defended the model and said that the government's scientific advisory committee on nutrition believed that it "accurately" identified foods which could in future be covered by broadcast advertising restrictions.

The new rules for wise eating are considered to be:

HEALTHIER FOOD GROUP

Oven chips
Chicken tikka masala (supermarket brand)
Roast beef dinner
Spaghetti bolognese
Sliced white bread

LESS HEALTHY FOOD GROUP

Cornflakes
Bran flakes
Polyunsaturated margarine
Chicken caesar salad with low-fat dressing
Olive oil

Source: Food Standards Agency



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