While diets like Atkins or Zone or South Beach are labeled as “fad diets” by many people, truth be told, many people enjoy great success at not only losing weight by following carbohydrate restricted diets, but vast empirical evidence suggests that going low carb can lead to better overall health. However, Canadians looking to live the low carb lifestyle are faced with a dilemma.
This weekend is my wife’s birthday. We’re having some family over for dinner to celebrate and I thought I’d take the opportunity to bake a big batch of low carb savory macaroni and cheese. The catch, of course, was that the recipe called for low carb elbow macaroni and bread crumbs. Easy enough, I thought. But after scowering half a dozen grocery stores, I was empty handed.
Faced with this problem, I looked to the Internet (as always). It turns out that I wasn’t the only one looking for some low carb pasta to no avail. Dreamfields seems to be the popular low carb pasta brand in the US, but while once sold in Canada, it is no more. Turns out that you’d be hard pressed to find any low carb products in Canadian grocery stores.
In 2003, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency made amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations, setting requirements for nutritional content and diet related health claims on food labels. Specifically, restrictions were put in place on labeling products as low carb or variants thereof. Just as grocery store shelves began getting stocked full of low carb food items, companies began pulling the items out of the Canadian market. The obvious reason - if you can’t advertise the benefits of one food item over another, then why bother even making it available in the first place.
So what are we to do? Fortunately there are options. The Low Carb Grocery, based in Toronto, has a fairly inexpensive mail order operation going on. And they have it all, including Dreamfields pasta. But if you’re looking to cook something soon and don’t have the luxury of being able to wait for your food to show up in the mailbox, you’re forced to really look hard to find something that will meet your low carb needs.
I finally settled on Catelli’s Smart elbow pasta which is a white pasta that supposedly tastes unlike the whole wheat kind but has all the fibre benefits making it the lowest net-carb white pasta that I could find. I also found a loaf of Dempster’s whole wheat bread that contains only 7 grams of carbs per slice. In fact, Dempsters was daring enough to advertise this on their packaging despite the regulations (in 2008, further amendments were made to the legislation such that companies are now allowed to advertise the carb content on food labels, so long as there are no other words involved).
But here is the crazy thing about all these low carb label restrictions. They exist, apparently, because of the lack of scientific evidence that low carb is a healthy lifestyle. Fine - despite the fact that I (and many, many others) think opposite, a fair argument can be made of that. But what about the thousands of labeled low fat or prebiotic items for sale? Not only does scientific evidence fail to find these things healthy, empirical evidence is turning up suggesting that low fat diets are actually bad for your health. So why isn’t labelling things as low fat equally restricted??
At the end of the day, it seems that government bodies sometimes feel it necessary to restrict society from making mistakes. Unfortunately they’re just like you and me and many times not only do their priorities get screwed up, they just get things plain wrong. However, with the low carb thing, enough empirical evidence does exist today that I think some further amendments should be made to the legislation to allow a reasonable use labeling to suggest low carb so that companies can begin selling their low carb items in Canada again outside of the rare specialty shops.