Are you being fooled by the imitation?

You have to wonder…if one of the main ingredients in Half & Half is cream (which is perceived as fattening) then what in the world do they use to make “fat free” Half & Half? And what about mayonnaise? A recipe for homemade mayo calls for oil and eggs – both contain fat grams. So how do they make “fat free” mayonnaise? And should we really be eating it?

I was surprised to learn that there actually used to be a food industry regulation requiring manufacturers to clearly label foods like these as an “imitation”. Of course these products were looked down upon, and so it is no surprise that the ever-so-powerful food industry hated this rule. According to Michael Pollan “in 1973 [they] finally succeeded in getting the imitation rule tossed out.” Suddenly, what was once almost considered to be fraud now in some cases appeared to be even healthier than the real thing (if you are only judging by added nutrients and reduced fats that is).

Also consider that if the low fat version of a product (that doesn’t even contain any of the original ingredients) still tastes good then there is probably a reason for that too. In some cases the fattening ingredient was just replaced with a sweetener of some sort, which holds true for both fat free half & half and fat free mayo. Do we really think those versions are “healthier” than eating the whole foods themselves that inspired those products?

So here is a little list to help you make an educated decision on whether you want to consume a chemically created imitation or the real thing!

The Imitation (including ingredients) The Real Thing
Full of hydrogenated oil instead of cream
Fat Free Half and Half / Non-dairy Creamer
Uses corn syrup instead of cream
Original Half and Half
Sugar substitutes
Sweet’n Low: nutritive dextrose, soluble saccharin, cream of tartar, calcium silicate
Splenda: soluble corn fiber, maltodextrin, sucralose
Pancake Syrup
Aunt Jemima: full of high-fructose corn syrup instead of real maple syrup
100% Maple Syrup
Lemonade (sold as a powder)
Crystal Light Pink Lemonade: citric acid, potassium citrate, maltodextrin, aspartame, magnesium oxide among other things like artificial color (I don’t even see lemon juice on this list!)
Real Lemonade –
In the refrigerated aisle “Simply Lemonade” is made with water, natural sugar, lemon juice, and natural flavors
Fat Free Mayonnaise
Miracle Whip Fat Free: instead of oil it has high-fructose corn syrup
Real Mayonnaise
Low-fat Salad Dressings
Hidden Valley Fat Free Ranch: instead of oil and eggs it has high-fructose corn syrup
Original Salad Dressings or make them from scratch
Chocolate Syrup
Hershey’s Syrup “Genuine Chocolate Flavor”: has some cocoa, but the main ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup
Try an organic or more natural version from a store like Trader Joe’s or Earth Fare – or just drink white milk

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5 thoughts on “Are you being fooled by the imitation?”

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  1. I came here after buying fat free “half and half”. I know better and
    wouldn’t have purchased it if I’d noticed.(fat free is in too small a print)
    Powdered non dairy creamer tastes better and is cheaper.
    I usually avoid buying foods with obvious lies in the name.

    I suppose it has placebo health benefits for the uninformed, but the taste is terrible.
    It’s like thickened skim milk.

  2. I love your site! My family has been hard at work embracing the change to real food. On this particular post, I would change the “Simply Lemonade Real Lemonade” to lemons, water, and sugar, since the Simply Lemonade version contains “natural flavors” and it really isn’t hard to make your own lemonade. Thanks for doing such a great job informing your readers.

  3. Your site is absolutely ridiculous… in the best way!
    I am very encouraged perusing your many insightful, well-written pages. If you ever need encouragement (and we all do), please consider this an enormous compliment.

  4. Just so you know, natural flavors can still be a mysterious mix of chemicals. They were just derived from natural starters. They are better than artificial and most of us can not eempty our diets of them completely. I just thought that you may have overlooked that fact. I am really enjoying your site. I have just found it today and am happy to explore your ideas and inspiration.

  5. Thank you for putting it so simply. I am going to show this to my mom, I grew up on a lot of this. After educating myself I do not eat any of these imitation foods. Another thing we ate a lot of was “imitation cheese”- a.k.a. velveeta!!! That was what our mac n’cheese was made of. I can’t even stand to eat velveeta as an adult after I figured out it was making my stomach hurt every time I ate it!! And now that I know the truth about real food and imitation food- it just makes me sick to even think about eating it.