Real Food Tips: 3 Deceiving Food Products

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When I give my “100 Days of Real Foodpresentations I routinely bring along a grocery bag full of “tricky” food products to discuss. Here are a few the items I share:
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1. Garden Veggie Sticks

Ingredients*(according to Amazon.com):
Potato Flour, Rice Flour, Expeller Pressed Sunflower Oil
, Spinach Powder, Tomato Powder, Sea Salt, and Beet Powders

Reality Check:
I called the company myself to find out exactly how these “Veggie Sticks” are made, and what I learned is that they are deep-fried in oil. Last time I checked “French fries” are potatoes deep-fried in oil and if you look at the first three ingredients on the list above (which reflects what this product contains the most of*) these “veggie sticks” are basically potato flour (and rice flour) also deep-fried in oil. Yes, they also contain some spinach powder, tomato powder and beet powder, but let’s face it they contain more oil than any of these so-called veggie “powders.”

Keep enjoying Veggie Sticks if you’d like, but please don’t be fooled into thinking that they are a replacement for real vegetables. I think they are perfectly fine as an occasional treat, and I would personally classify them as a couple small steps above French fries.

Real Food Alternatives:
If you are looking for a crunchy replacement snack try whole-grain pretzels, whole-grain crackers, popcorn, or (I’m gonna say it) some fresh crunchy raw vegetables like carrots, bell peppers or celery. If your kids aren’t into raw veggies try offering them with a dip like homemade ranch or hummus. You could also try making your own real “veggie chips” with our Kale Chip recipe.
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2. Yoplait “Light” Yogurt

Ingredients* (according to Amazon.com):
Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Strawberries, Modified Corn Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Aspartame, Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Natural Flavor, Red No. 40, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3

Reality Check:
Based on the ingredient list above this product contains more high fructose corn syrup than it does strawberries. And if you love this yogurt please don’t shoot the messenger because this information is right there on the label for anyone to see! This product also contains artificial sweetener (aspartame) and artificial dyes (red no. 40). Possibly more than you bargained for in a supposed “healthy” light yogurt?

Alternatives:
When buying yogurt there are three key things to look for…
1. Plain – Flavor it yourself! We like using homemade berry sauce or a simple maple syrup/vanilla extra combo.
2. Whole milk / full fat – Unfortunately (fortunately?) low-fat products are just more processed, which is exactly why we avoid them.
3. Organic – Unlike fruit and veggies you can’t peel or rinse off dairy products so I definitely recommend springing for the organic version if you can.

Note: A lot of people ask about “Greek” yogurt and as long as it meets these three recommended requirements (plain, full fat, and organic) it’s a good choice as well.
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3. Trader Joe’s Multigrain Crackers

Ingredients* (according to the package I hold in my hands :)):
Enriched flour
(wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sunflower oil, sugar, scotch oatmeal, inulin, rye flour, multigrain flour blend (wheat, rye, triticale, barley, corn, millet, soybean, sunflower seeds, rice, flax, durum, oats), wheat germ, modified corn starch, salt, invert syrup, sodium bicarbonate, onion powder, malt flour, monocalcium phosphate, microbial enzymes

Reality Check:
Multi-grain is very commonly confused with “whole-grain,” and the bottom line is they have similar names, but mean two different things. Multi-grain simply means the product contains different grains, which could or could not be highly refined. Whole-grain means the product contains “whole” grain ingredients, which have not been stripped of any beneficial nutrients. For a more in-depth explanation of whole-grain vs. multi-grain – including a full-fledged diagram of a grain! – check out our “Understanding Grains” post.

So with that being said when I look at the ingredients above what I see is this product is made mainly from “enriched flour” a.k.a. white flour and that it contains more oil and salt than any whole grains. Sure, it’s Trader Joe’s so there are no artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oils, which is desirable, but still this product is far from 100% whole grain if that’s what you are going for.

Alternatives:
Some whole-grain cracker options include Ak-Mak (also sold at Trader Joe’s and they are organic), Multi-Seed Original (these are gluten-free in case you have an allergy/intolerance), or Triscuits (which still contain refined oil, but they are 100% whole-grain and contain only 3 ingredients). Or you could always make your own Easy Cheesy Crackers…it’s not as hard as you think! :)
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*According to the FDA’s website “Listing ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first.” So in short – what the product contains the most of you’ll find listed first.

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146 comments to Real Food Tips: 3 Deceiving Food Products

  • elisa

    How do you feel about “Mary’s Gone Crackers”? They are a seed cracker, gluten-free and seem very similar to the Multi Seed Originals that you recommended. My toddler loves them, but isn’t too excited about Ak-Mok. Also, they sell them at Costco, which is always a +.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Elisa. The Leakes stick pretty close to their “Ak-Maks” as thier cracker of choice because they are 100% whole grain with a short wholesome ingredient list. I, personally, rely on “Mary’s Gone Crackers” because they are gluten free (necessary in my home), non-gmo verified, organic, and 100% whole grain. That is a far cry from most crackers in a box. :) Amy

  • Heather

    Hello, I was not sure where else to post this so, here goes. Recently I noticed that Costco started carrying Theperfectfoodsbar. I decided to check out their website and am curious to know if anyone else has noticed a discrepancy in the front of the wrapper that claims “organic peanuts and honey” and the ingredient list which states peanut butter (not organic peanut butter). The bar which contains almond butter clearly states “organic almond butter” on the ingredient list so I am pretty sure the peanut butter is not organic. I would like to write them to ask why they are presenting this in a deceiving manner about the peanut butter being organic if it is not! I do realize it says organic “peanuts” not “organic peanut butter” on the front wrapper but I am pretty sure peanuts
    are not listed separate from peanut butter on the ingredient list.
    So to me that would indicate that the peanut butter is organic, until I read the ingredient list.

  • Jolene

    I think Yoplait has stopped using HFCS and artificial dyes in their yogurts. Not that their replacements are any better, but just wanted to give you the update. Here’s their word on it: http://www.yoplait.com/yoplait-in-action/great-minds-think-alike

  • Angela

    FYI – Yoplait Light Yogurt has recently changed their recipe. They took out the HFCS and now use real sugar. They also took out the Aspartame and now use Sucralose. I’m not saying it’s actually any healthier but I do feel like it’s a tiny baby step in the right direction.

  • jane maihan

    HI,

    You make reference to Ak-Mak crackers and Multi-Seed original. what brand are the multi seed ones?

    Thanks,
    Jane

  • Megan

    Oh how I miss Triscuits! They are GMO correct?

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