Monday, August 6, 2012

Label-Reading 101: Odwalla and Naked Brands

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A few years ago, I worked as a real estate agent on the Upper East Side. I started my day at 9 am and sometimes didn't leave work until 9 pm. Clients would meet me at my office, but by the end of our appointment, I'd find myself halfway across the city in Tribeca, Harlem or the Upper West Side. Having lunch at a specific time each day was just not an option, and I often found myself grabbing food on the fly because 1) I needed to close the deal quickly (NYC real estate is right up there with 'The Amazing Race') or because 2) I was experiencing a major blood sugar crash, leaving me with no energy to bust it to my next appointment and make that money, honey.

Most of my lunches on the fly were an Odwalla Brand protein smoothie or a Naked Brand juice (That's right, I didn't even have time to chew). Yes, they were expensive (as a drink alone), but if you considered them a meal, they were quite affordable. I justified it and chugged those drinks like it was my job, feeling especially proud of myself for choosing something so healthy when I could have easily opted for the fast food option.

I should have saved the self-praise for another day. Odwalla and Naked are not horrible for you in the grand scheme of things, but if you take time to look at the labels, you'll notice a few things...

1) The nutrition label can be deceptive. The label for Naked usually reflects 1 serving size, when there are often 2 servings in the bottle. In essence, you have to double everything listed. This is a Naked issue, more so than Odwalla. Take a look at Naked's Blue Machine label (taken from their website If you are drinking this along with a meal (which I can only assume many people are), you're adding 340 calories to your meal (almost enough calories to equal a light meal).

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2) Much of the fiber is lost when processed into the drink form. When you consider how many fruits and vegetables are included in one bottle, you'll be disheartened to see how low the fiber content is in comparison. Fiber plays a major role in making you feel full. So if you're using this as a meal replacement, then you'll probably find yourself hungry shortly thereafter, causing you to consume more calories by having another snack or an additional meal.

3) These drinks are PACKED with sugar. Yes, it is natural sugar derived directly from the fruit itself (vs. the big bad alternative, processed sugar), but that still doesn't make it healthy to consume that much sugar in one sitting. At 40 grams per 12 oz. bottle, Odwalla's C Monster Smoothie packs more sugar than a can of Coke (39 grams per 12 oz. bottle). Granted, it's not processed sugar, but your body won't notice the difference. You'll get the same sugar rush, followed by the same hard crash afterwards. 

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4) If you're not a fan of big corporations, you'll be disappointed to hear that Naked is a subsidiary of Pepsi and Odwalla is a subsidiary of Coke. They put out products that are wrapped in 'good-for-you' labels, but at the same time have no problem producing drinks that are completely lacking in nutritional content and natural ingredients. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good Diet Coke every once in awhile (I am from the company's hometown after all), but even I can recognize that Coke and other soda products are not that good for you - bottom line.

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Before I come off as a raving lunatic, I'd like to point out that I WOULD recommend these drinks in a few specific situations...

1) If you hate vegetables and absolutely refuse to eat your fruit in its natural form, I'd suggest these drinks as a last resort to get the nutrients that your body needs. These drinks provide a decent variety of the vitamins that your system requires to function, and they are an easy, on-the-go option for those who need a fast, non-messy alternative to eating actual fruit and vegetables.

2) If you have a sugar craving after dinner but don't want to indulge in the usual cookies, ice cream or cake, I can support drinking a few sips of Naked or Odwalla. It will appease your sweet tooth in a healthier way, keeping you from the processed ingredients and empty calories of a traditional dessert. 

My point is this: Be aware of what you are consuming and consume with moderation. These drinks are not ALL bad, but they are definitely over-indulgent and should be 'rationed' accordingly.

I'll get off my soapbox now before Coke and Pepsi come looking for me.

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