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Munchies

Someone Should Probably Tell Lean Cuisine Its New Nutrition Plan Has the Same Name as a Giant Invasive Rodent

Southerners have a different idea of what "Nutria" means.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Apr 23 2018, 2:54pm

Composite image / Photos via Flickr Creative Commons

“We're only just beginning to understand how genetics can affect us in terms of diet, but it's an actual thing,” registered dietitian and nutrition consultant Abby Langer told MUNCHIES. “I got my DNA done by Nutrigenomix, and the results told me that I'm at high risk for iron and calcium deficiency, that I can metabolize carbs fine, and that I'm sensitive to caffeine. Most of what these tests measure in my experience is the risk a person is at for a nutrient deficiency, and their ability to metabolize nutrition such as carbohydrates.”

So yeah, maybe that all works and each participant will reach their health goals and collectively live their best lives, but come on, that NAME. Twitter is filled with Louisiana and Gulf Coast residents who agree that no one in the southern half of the United States had anything to do with the program. And New Orleans-based newsweekly Gambit says that they should’ve realized something was up when they couldn’t register the domain Nutria.com—because it’s already owned by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Back when Dr. Thomas was still trying to put nutria on Louisiana’s plates, he suggested that the critter just needed some better branding. “I tell you, if you change the name to 'bayou rabbit,' I think nutria would take off,” he said.

What do you think, Lean Cuisine?

In 1993, Dr. Robert Thomas, a biologist and professor at Loyola University, launched Nutriafest, an event that he hoped would make Louisiana’s invasive overgrown swamp rats look less like a widespread nuisance and more like dinner. According to the New York Times , Thomas even recruited celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme for the inaugural festival, which resulted in one-night-only recipes for nutria etouffee, nutria sausage and nutria gumbo.

Four years later, he was almost ready to admit that his Southern neighbors weren’t interested in consuming 15-pound rodents. ''I just don't think people like to eat things that they see dead on the highway,'' he said. ''And there's dead nutria all along the roads down here.''

Fast forward to last week, when Lean Cuisine launched its new DNA-based nutrition plan, which it named Nutria, because apparently no one at Lean Cuisine has learned about Google. Regardless, the company that makes your coworkers’ favorite reduced-calorie frozen fettuccine has gone full Watson and Crick, and would very much like you to spit in a tube and send it to them to analyze and use to customize your diet plan. (And you can trust that Nutria is very serious about interpreting your results, because it uses a stock image of a woman examining a double-helix).

“Nutria is the next step in personalized nutrition,” the site promises. “With insights from your DNA, we partner with experienced nutritionists to provide you with customized meal plans that empower you to make better food choices. Nutria’s nutrition plans are tailor-made for your unique genetic make-up and lifestyle.”

The company says the plan is based on nutrigenomics, which it defines as “the study of how foods affect our genes and how individual genetic differences can affect the way we respond to nutrients.” Nutria says that each participant’s DNA will be analyzed for everything from whether they’re genetically predisposed to being overweight to food intolerances and “a number of genes related to exercise and optimal performance.”

“We're only just beginning to understand how genetics can affect us in terms of diet, but it's an actual thing,” registered dietitian and nutrition consultant Abby Langer told MUNCHIES. “I got my DNA done by Nutrigenomix, and the results told me that I'm at high risk for iron and calcium deficiency, that I can metabolize carbs fine, and that I'm sensitive to caffeine. Most of what these tests measure in my experience is the risk a person is at for a nutrient deficiency, and their ability to metabolize nutrition such as carbohydrates.”

So yeah, maybe that all works and each participant will reach their health goals and collectively live their best lives, but come on, that NAME. Twitter is filled with Louisiana and Gulf Coast residents who agree that no one in the southern half of the United States had anything to do with the program. And New Orleans-based newsweekly Gambit says that they should’ve realized something was up when they couldn’t register the domain Nutria.com—because it’s already owned by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Back when Dr. Thomas was still trying to put nutria on Louisiana’s plates, he suggested that the critter just needed some better branding. “I tell you, if you change the name to 'bayou rabbit,' I think nutria would take off,” he said.

What do you think, Lean Cuisine?