However, I was recently reminded by a school girl about one of my old time favourites when I was a young girl – the good ole french onion dip.
Now a store bought french onion dip costs about $3 and has an ingredients list that looks like this: Ingredients: Onion (29%), Cream, Cream Cheese (21%) (Milk, Cream, Starter Culture), Milk Solids Non Fat, Water, Salt, Modified Starch (From Maize), Lactic Acid, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Natural Flavour, Sorbic Acid (Preservative).Contains Milk Solids 29%. (From Coles Online for Kraft French Onion Dip)
Here’s my french onion dip recipe with just 4 ingredients. It’s a bit hard to put a cost on it because I have the ingredients in my pantry and even after using them to make this recipe, most ingredients go straight back into my pantry to be used again to make other foods.
However, I would estimate this dip may cost about $1.
This dip is best made the day before you want to use it or at least a good few hours before to allow the flavours to enhance and the dip to thicken. It makes about a cup-worth but if you want a larger serve for a party or something, just double the ingredients.
½ brown onion 2 teaspoons of butter 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1 cup Natural Greek Yoghurt*
* I always use full fat yoghurt because the low fat products are usually pumped with sugar to make them taste better.
1. Finely grate the onion and pop it in a bowl (to save on washing up, use the bowl you’ll store / serve the dip in). I use a zester grater on the medium zest side
2. Melt the butter over medium heat
3. Once the butter is melted, add the onion and turn down heat
4. Slowly cook the onions until they start to caramelise – I stir them frequently using a fork to prevent the onion from clumping together too much. Keep an eye on them and if they look like they are starting to burn add a splash of water
5. Once they are looking yummy and caramelised (about 5 mins), add the Worcestershire sauce and stir again.
6. Take off heat and allow to cool
7. Once cool place the onion mixture into your dip bowl
8. Now gradually add in the yoghurt whilst stirring the onion around in it
9. Place in the fridge to thicken up. The flavours will enhance the longer it is left.
Storing / Freezing
Store this dip covered in the fridge. It’s not suitable for freezing and best eaten within 4-5 days.
Serve this dip with an array of different coloured vegetable crudites. Be bold – include vegetables you know your kids will like but add on others too. We throw on green beans and broccoli as well as the usual carrots, celery, capsicum (why not add a traffic light array of capsicum), cherry tomatoes etc.
Why am I writing about The Art and Science of Food Marketing?
Because I recently sat in listening to food organisations giving evidence to the Senate Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic about how it is their job to provide parents (consumers) with choice, and it is our job as parents to make better choices. Their position is there a place for these foods in a balanced diet. I can honestly tell you, it was so hard to sit there and bite my tongue.
I 100% agree it is a parent’s responsibility to make food and beverage choices for their family. However, these organisations total lack of acceptance of the role they play in the choices parents are making really annoys me. The art and science of food marketing plays a massive role in what parents are choosing to feed their family. Parents right around Australia have shared with us just how difficult it is to say no to these foods in light of the pester power created by these foods, and what their child’s friends are eating (no-one likes the idea of their kid not feeling normal).
Then there are the messages about how busy, time-poor parents need these products because they are convenient. Oh, I could go on! But, rather than get all hot under the collar about this, I decided to do what I do best – empower people with knowledge. Today I share with you some information to help you navigate (ie. see through) the marketing of food, so you can wield your consumer power by simply not buying many of these foods.
Personal trainers and medical professionals tell us that 80% of our health comes from the food we eat, therefore it is important to understand the numbers behind how most Australians are eating.
Discretionary foods are now the norm
Discretionary foods are not part of the 5 food groups our bodies need for health. They are foods that are considered to be OK to eat in small amounts, and only occasionally;
Our Australian Tour and our involvement in The Real Food Lunchbox Project found that most Australian children are having at least 2-4 discretionary foods in their lunchbox a day;
Only 5 out of every 100 children are eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables a day;
ABS data now shows that 58% of a household’s weekly food budget is now spent on discretionary foods – this means most households are spending over half of their food budget on foods which are not needed for health. (In fact, many of these foods have been shown to take away from our health.) Personally, I think this ABS study is really telling us how effective food manufacturers are at practising the art and science of marketing!
Given these numbers, it is fair to say most Australian children are not eating a balanced diet. They are eating a diet of largely discretionary foods, with small amounts of the foods their bodies need for health.
What’s on our supermarket shelves?
The George Institute For Global Health recently released a study completed on 40,664 products currently available on supermarket shelves (some reports indicate there are 50-80,000 different products currently available). Here are some of the key findings:
Two thirds (2/3) of products on supermarket shelves are considered unhealthy
61% of products on supermarket shelves are considered highly or ultra processed
Another 18% are considered to be moderately processed
53% of packaged foods are considered to be discretionary
Combine these stats with the ABS data that 58% of a household’s weekly food budget is now spent on discretionary foods, and is it any wonder this country has a health crisis?
What is marketing?
Depending on what you read, and where you read it, it is said that marketing is both an art and a science. The “art” part of marketing is the side which looks at shades of human behaviour, and creating an emotional connection with the consumer. The “science” part is the more analytical side, which looks at the strategies to optimise consumer activity and spend. The combination of the 2 makes it difficult for even the most astute consumer to navigate the enormous amounts of products on the supermarket shelf.
To help you navigate better, I want to share with you a few techniques (tactics) used in the food industry so you can easily recognise them for what they are. I hope you can learn to see them for what they are, laugh at them and move on (ie. do not buy them).
There is definitely a science to the layout of supermarkets and their promotions. Have you ever noticed how when you walk into the 2 major supermarkets in Australia, you enter from one side, and that there are usually specials near the entrance? Yep, there’s a science to that: the specials tend to be items with a higher margin (ie. that the supermarkets will make more money on) – or that the food manufacturer has paid extra $ for, to place at the front of the store.
Product positioning is another important marketing science. Have you ever noticed how foods like Tiny Teddies are positioned at the eye level of kids from toddlers to 7 year olds? And biscuits like shapes are at the eye level of slightly older kids, and those packets of noodles with flavour sachets are at the eye level of tweens and early teens? Then energy drinks and soft drinks at the eye level of teens? This is not a coincidence.
There is a whole other level of positioning around brands, too. I recently had a discussion with someone who is a manager at food manufacturer which has over 10 lines of products with the 3 major supermarkets. His company was approached by one of the major supermarkets who said they were looking at reducing the number of brands of a particular product range, and requested a $100,000 payment in order to keep their brand on the shelf. I won’t even go into the rest of the negotiations that went on, but suffice to say I was blown away.
I started doing some research and found this article called Shelf Importance which was eye opening – I suggest you read it to get a great understanding of just how much science is involved with how products and brands are marketed within supermarkets.
Psychology of colour
Have you noticed how many fast food outlets and packaged foods use red, yellow, greens and blues? It’s because each colour elicits a different kind of response. In this great article by Karen Haller about branding she says “The language of colour is communicated quicker to the brain than words or shapes as they work directly on our feelings and emotions.”
Here are just some of the ways colours are used:
RED – gives a sense of urgency. Is often used by fast food outlets because it encourages appetite, builds excitement and passion.
YELLOW / ORANGE– happy and friendly colours. When combined with red, they give the feeling of speed. Also used to elicit impulsive buys. Yellow is also the most visible colour in daylight (you can always see those golden arches, day or night).
BLUE – associated with peace and reliability. Used mostly by conservative brands wanting people to trust them.
GREEN – think healthy, nature, strong. Used to relax people.
PURPLE – wisdom, admiration, creative.
BLACK – means strong, stable
Think about the colours used by most fast food outlets, or the colours on packaged foods. Can you see now why those companies and products are using those colours?
Taken from this great article by the Obesity Policy Coalition
Characters / Words
I’ve written before about the use of characters on food packets for kids before – read the Dark Side of The Force, it explains how characters have a significant impact on pester power of kids.
What about the use of our sports people to promote food and drinks too. I can tell you from first hand experience of showing kids sports drinks and hearing them all cheer for them, that the use of Australian sports people promoting these drinks has been a stroke of genius by these firms. Kids look up to these athletes. They see if they are drinking them, then we must need them after we have played sport. Seriously, what kid (or adult for that matter) needs the 9 teaspoons of sugar most of these drinks contain?
Then the words used on packets: E.g. lunchbox friendly (only to manufacturers – not to our kids bodies nor the stress levels of teachers), canteen approved, no artificial colours or flavours, 30% less sugar (than what?), no added MSG and the list goes on.
These words, those pictures – all of this is the art and science of marketing. None of it tells you what’s in your food. Turn the packet over and read the ingredients.
Specials, like Buy One, Get One Free
Everyone loves to think they are getting a bargain. But are you? Why is it this week you can get 2 for the price of one? Who is paying for the other one? Are the supermarkets being the nice guy and giving it away? I doubt it. Have they charged the manufacturer additional fees to do this? Or are we being overcharged in the first place?
Interesting questions, don’t you think? What about this question: Do you really need two of that item this week?
5 Tips To Navigate Marketing At Supermarkets
Here are my 5 simple tips to navigate marketing whilst at supermarkets:
Go into the shops with a full tummy and a shopping list
Shop mainly in the fruit and veg section, followed by the refrigerated section (use steps 3-5 when shopping in refrigerated section)
Pay no attention to where products are positioned
Pay no attention to items listed as on special unless they are on your list
Only buy what’s on the list after turning packets around, and reading the ingredients. Always ask: “What’s in my food?”
This week my Year 3 son’s teacher left because she was offered a job closer to home. A class party was in order to wish her well.
In steps my gorgeous rainbow platter of fruit.
Some people think that kids need loads of food, usually packets of chips and lollies, to have an enjoyable party. That’s not really true. This rainbow class party platter made the whole class pretty happy! The students all had fun, they stopped class work, they ate, they chatted and gave the teacher lots of cuddles. There wasn’t even any comments about there being no chips, lollies or cakes.
Now, here’s the thing…
It’s true, if there had been chips, lollies and cakes on offer, along with this delicious rainbow platter, many children would have gone for the processed food first. Why wouldn’t they?
Processed foods are made using science to create flavours and tastes which make even the most astute consumer tempted to eat them. But, if you simply don’t offer the choice, they don’t notice it and it certainly doesn’t stop them from having fun. One of the most fun things about a class party is getting out of doing class work and being with your friends. The food is a bonus.
I wanted to share this with the TWC community because sometimes it is our own adult perception of what kids expect or want that drives the choices we make. Party food doesn’t need to be laden with sugar and additives such as colours and flavours for kids to have fun. Some people think that real food is more expensive but this delicious array cost $38 which is about $1.50 per student.
What if you want to provide chips, lollies and cakes for a class party?
If you really believe these sorts of foods are needed for a class party, then it is suggested you consciously choose the packet foods by asking “what’s in my food?” Turn the packet around and read the ingredients. Choose packets which are not likely to cause an energy burst (and subsequent slump) or trigger behavioural issues.
Here are some tips for you.
Choose: Plain chips or crackers over flavoured – many of the flavour enhancers are linked to behavioural issues, asthma or eczema.
Plain chocolate over flavoured chocolates – the darker the chocolate, the less sugar content.
Making a cake at home where you control the level of sugar.
Lollies that use natural colours rather than artificial colours.
Find more healthy, wholefood, kid-friendly recipes on Bel’s website, The Root Cause.
These delicious brown rice, brown lentil and vegetable patties are a great vegetarian recipe that you can use for dinner and lunch. They’re loaded with protein and long lasting carbohydrates, perfect for keeping tummies full. They’re delicious served warm with a great big dollop of hummus or tzatziki and a salad or steamed vegetables for dinner. The leftovers are super yummy for the lunchbox too. We served ours in cos lettuce leaves so wrapped around the patties.
Adjust the size of the patties for however you want to serve them. I made these ones into smaller shapes so they were suitable for the lunchbox as well as the dinner plate. See below for 2 other ideas. Let me know how you use them in the comments below.
1. Put all ingredients up to sesame seeds in a food processor. Blend for 30 seconds to mix then pulse a few times until it forms a thick paste.
2. Refrigerate 15-30 mins.
3. Put a big pile of sesame seeds on a plate, take a heaped tablespoon of mixture into your hands to form a patty. Drop in the sesame seeds and turn to coat it all around. This mixture is quite soft so you need to be a bit gentle with how you toss them. Repeat until all the mixture is used.
4. Heat a pan with a tbsp of coconut oil over medium heat. When heated, put in patties. Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes. Keep an eye on the heat, if it’s too hot the sesame seeds may cook too quick. You may need to add a little more coconut oil to cook all of them. Adjust the cooking time depending on the size of the patty you make. Bigger, fatter ones will require longer to cook through.
5. Cook in batched until all the mixture is used up.
2 Other Ways
– Make the patty bigger and fatter and serve as a hamburger. Choose a good quality wholegrain roll or sourdough, and load it with delicious salad items.
– Make smaller falafel size, and serve in a wrap with salads. You could even toast the wrap for extra yum factor.
The story behind this recipe
For the last year, we have been trying to have more vegetable based meals every Monday night as part of the Meatless Monday food movement. I have a tendency to fall back to curries and stir fries. This year, I am trying extra hard to create other dishes too which work well for dinner and lunch box.
This week, on Monday I did home ec with Indrani for her schooling and she asked to learn how to make spaghetti Bolognese, so we didn’t actually do Meatless Monday because she really wanted to eat the meal she made. No complaints from me there – a night off! But it did actually give me the headspace to try out some vegetable ideas. This brown rice, brown lentil and vegetable pattie was a success, so I am sharing it with you. I hope you enjoy them! Just a reminder, you don’t need to be a master chef, or have a big spotless kitchen to make awesome nutritious meals or snacks for your family.