[Weekender] Diet foods suppress carbs, not appetite

By Kim Da-sol
  • Published : May 11, 2018 - 16:56
  • Updated : May 11, 2018 - 16:56

A 28-year-old Oh Hye-jin’s day begins with drinking a 125 milliliter pack of non-sweet soy bean milk, mixed with powdered oats.

On a strict diet, she prepares her breakfast after a morning exercise. Her option is normally pancakes made of whole grain, drizzled with date palm syrup.

Oh has been cutting back on refined carbohydrates for the past three months. She says white flour is the main culprit behind her love handles.

If she has time, she cooks and packs her lunch, but she recently began buying her meals at convenience stores or coffeehouse chains that sell salads.

Dano’s whole grain pancake mix. Dano

“I could easily find budget and healthy meal replacements like cereal bars, steamed egg and canned chicken breast at convenience stores. Cafes like Starbucks also have low calorie items such as salads,” said Oh.

As busy modern consumers interest in healthy but tasty diet food increases, meal supplements and grab-and-go foods that minimize carb intake are gaining popularity. Most of them are easily available at convenience stores and coffee shops.

Dano, a diet food company that sells diet food and meal replacements, is well known for selling creative diet food using so-called “good carbs.”

One example is Dano’s healthy cereal. Instead of an average cereal that uses corn or wheat and sugar, Dano has a roasted brown rice cereal.

Dano’s brown rice cereal. Dano

Furthermore, it has jelly substitute made of prunes, while a can of chili smoked oyster that contains 11 grams of protein replaces a can of chicken breast.

“We develop our products by focusing on consumer needs for convenient, tasty but healthy meals. We also consider low sugar, dietary fiber substances and high protein as significant factors,” said Lee Ji-soo, CEO of Dano, adding their variety of alternate ingredients reflect the change in the diet scene, which in the past was all about appetite suppressants.

Another diet food company Chungchun Food that produces “Kong Kong ball” -- literally a packet of balls made of ground chicken breast, vegetables and whole grains -- agreed the domestic diet food market is shifting toward eating real but healthier food.

But since diet food or meal supplements cannot completely exclude carbohydrates in their plan, companies try to substitute them with different kinds of alternatives such as banana, potato, sweet potato and brown rice, to give a feeling of fullness, but also balance out nutrition by avoiding too much dependency on protein.

“Once you become less accustomed to feeling full and comfortable, a sensation that carbs tend to give, your body starts to see change,” said Choi Tae-hyung from Dr. Kitchen, a company that plans dietary meals.

Starbucks Korea’s grilled shrimp and basil pesto. Starbucks Korea

Coffee houses, meanwhile, have also jumped into the bandwagon of heathier, less carb-heavy options.

Starbucks Korea, which has over 1,000 branches across the country, has begun selling easy-to-grab meal boxes such as Cajun chicken wrap boxes.

Exclusively at the Jongno branch in Seoul, the company sells boxes with grilled shrimp and basil pesto and oat-crusted chicken with sweet potato salad. The calories in each box range from 240 to 390 kcal, relatively low compared to an average meal.

Starbucks Korea’s oat-crusted chicken with sweet potato. Starbucks Korea

“Considering that Jongno is a bustling business district with busy workers, Starbucks Korea began providing such menu to cater to modern consumers who think diet and healthy consumption,” said a Starbucks official.

By Kim Da-sol (