When shopping for food there are quite a few confusing buzz words out there that can easily be misleading … The biggest one being Organic! Just because a product says it’s organic does not mean it isn’t highly processed junk food. It is important to first ensure an item is not highly processed and then also try to find the organic version if possible.
In order to do this, you want to always read the ingredient label (as opposed to relying on the health claims on the front of the package) first. That is the only way to know what’s really in your food, and what you find may be surprising. Here are some examples of highly processed foods that just happen to be made with organic ingredients:
- Organic ice cream sandwiches (the one pictured contains organic corn syrup and organic sugar in addition to white flour)
- Organic flavored yogurt (also full of organic sugar)
- Organic cookies
- Organic crackers made with white flour
- Organic chips and pretzels
- Organic white bread
Making sure you know what the most common misleading health claims are and what they mean will help you avoid highly processed junk food.
Even if a food product is labeled as certified organic it could still be made with sugar, white flour, and other refined ingredients. Just because the cookies are organic does not mean they aren’t junk food!
Product Example: Late July Organic Vanilla Bean Cookies
These cookies may be organic, but they still contain refined white flour (labeled as organic wheat flour), refined sweeteners (labeled as organic evaporated cane juice, organic brown rice syrup, and organic evaporated cane juice syrup), and additives (including soy lecithin and natural flavors).
Multi-Grain / 7-Grain
This claim simply means the product contains more than one type of grain (or in some cases as many as 7 grains). Some examples of different grains are wheat, barley, rye, spelt, rice, oats, and corn. Just because a food product is made with more than one of these grains does not automatically mean any of them are whole grains … and nutritionally speaking, there is a big difference between refined and whole grains. For more on this topic check out: Understanding Grains and Nutrients in Refined vs. Whole Grains.
Product Example: Snyder’s Multi-Grain Pretzel SticksThese pretzels contain more refined white flour (labeled as enriched wheat flour) and sweetener (labeled as molasses) than whole-grain flours.
Obviously, the gluten-free label is important for those with an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance to gluten, but just because a food is labeled as gluten-free does not mean it isn’t highly processed. Gluten-free simply means that grains with gluten (like wheat, barley, and rye) were not used when making the product. But just like the multi-grain example above the alternate grains may or may not be whole grain products … you must read the ingredient label to find out!
Product Example: DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Pasta
This pasta is made from refined “rice” and contains no whole grains (like brown rice).
The moral of the story is … always read the ingredient label to know what’s really in your food!