High-Fructose Corn Syrup 101

What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup and why should we care? In the most basic sense High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a cheap, liquid sweetener that is similar to sugar. According to Wikipedia HFCS is “produced by milling corn to produce corn starch, then processing that starch to yield corn syrup, which is almost entirely glucose, and then adding enzymes that change most of the glucose into fructose.”

So we have all heard that it isn’t good for our health to eat too much sugar and the same should go for HFCS. The biggest problem with HFCS though, is that it is hidden in an unbelievable amount of processed foods in every single aisle of your grocery store.

Well, I say it is “hidden” but it isn’t really a secret if you just simply read the ingredients label before buying your food (which for some reason I never did before now!).

There are a lot of controversial studies and news stories about how bad HFCS really is and if it is more harmful for your body than sugar. But, no matter what all the different experts disagree on there is one thing for certain – it would be wise to avoid consuming high quantities of HFCS – just as you would with any other type of sweetener including sugar. And chances are you are consuming a lot more HFCS than you think.

Following is a list of products that I found to include HFCS. Some may surprise you as they did for me – I used to be a loyal customer to some of these brands! This list is hardly the tip of the iceberg, but at least something to get you started in case you suddenly feel the urge to clean out your pantry….

Food product category

A sampling of some specific brands that contain HFCS

Similar alternative with no HFCS plus a shorter and less complicated list of ingredients

Jellies and Jams Most Smuckers preserves and jams Pollaner All Fruit or easily make your own by mashing up a banana with a fork or grinding a strawberry or other fruit in a little mini food processor
Yogurt Both fat free & original Yoplait Stoneyfield Organic Yogurt (buy plain if you can manage to flavor it yourself)
Beverages Minute Maid Lemonade (in cold section) Simply Lemonade although it does include regular sugar
Coca-Cola I am sure you know my answer to this one – skip the soda and drink some water instead!
Most V8 Splash Drinks Look for juices labeled as “natural” that also say 100% juice and just to be sure read the ingredients!
Dairy Store brand fat free half & half Original half & half
Frozen Foods Frozen Smuckers Uncrustables (in both the bread and jelly) Make your own PB&J with good bread and jelly!
Frozen Bagel Bites Make your own pizza from scratch
Blue Bunny Vanilla Ice Cream Breyers “All Natural”
Popsicle brand popsicles, Lindy’s Italian ice cups, Minute Maid juice bars You can easily make your own popsicles by pouring your “natural” fruit juice drinks into little popsicle molds from target and freezing them
Bread Sara Lee Classic 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread among others Read blog post entitled “What (should be) in your sandwich bread” for more info
Cookies Snackwells Crème Sandwiches, Nabisco Oreos, Keebler “Chips Deluxe” among others Make your own cookies and freeze them!
Crackers Ritz Whole Wheat Crackers, Ritz Bitz Sandwiches, Club Original Crackers, Club Honey Wheat Snack Sticks, Nabisco Graham Crackers, Nilla Wafers Triscuits, Low-Fat Triscuits, Ak-Mak 100% whole wheat stone ground sesame crackers
Condiments Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup Trader Joe’s Organic Midnight Moo although it still contains sugar of course and some other hard to pronounce ingredients
Aunt Jemima Syrup Any brand 100% Pure Maple Syrup
Ken’s and Lawry’s Marinades (I used to love Lawry’s!) The Good Housekeeping “Good Food” brand looked okay, but the best option would be to make your own marinades
A lot of BBQ Sauces including Sweet Baby Rays, Sticky Fingers, Jack Daniels, Kraft Bullseye looks okay or make your own – more to come including recipe
Heinz Tomato Ketchup Heinz Organic Tomato Ketchup
Duke’s Light Mayo, Light Miracle Whip Most real mayos are better than the light version including Spectrum brand which also has an organic option
Salad Dressings A lot of salad dressings including some Wishbone, Kraft, Emeril’s Olde Cape Cod and Annie’s Naturals look okay, but you are better off using olive oil & balsamic vinegar or making your own – more to come including recipes
Cereals and Breakfast Foods Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Special K, Rice Krispies Post and other brands of Shredded Wheat, Nature’s Path Fruit Juice Sweetened Corn Flakes, EnviroKidz Organic cereals or better yet eat some plain organic oatmeal that you flavor yourself or make your own granola cereal
Pop Tarts Make some homemade banana pancakes or waffles (that you keep in the freezer) or serve up whole wheat toast with All Fruit spread instead
Nutrigrain Cereal Bars Nature Valley Granola Bars looked okay or better yet make your own granola bars
Kids Foods Campbells Spaghettios Boil some whole wheat noodles and add some basic organic red sauce (this would probably freeze okay although I have not personally tried)
Regular Motts, Whitehouse and Store Brand Applesauce Motts Natural (no sugar added), Store Brand organic natural applesauce (at Harris Teeter) or better yet make your own applesauce (and freeze it) – more to come including recipe

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18 thoughts on “High-Fructose Corn Syrup 101”

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  1. all the alternatives are “better yet make your own!!!” 1. I literally don’t want to I buy food for convenience 2. people who aren’t rich don’t have this luxury of time that you do as a “best selling author” to literally “just make hahah!!!!” most of the food they need to eat if they have to work a job and cannot dedicate hours to eating things that objectively taste bad.

    1. Hi Kara, we appreciate your feedback. While it may not be a good fit for some, others do find this information helpful while on their real food journey. – Nicole

  2. Wow! Those are lots of very informative tips on knowing the food we buy at the groceries. I believe that too much is really bad. Thank for the knowledge you shared. We really need to be more aware on the foods that we buy, read the label first before we purchase. And if possible, better stick to organic ones. Thank you so much for your wonderful website

  3. I was wondering if you had a better store bought option to replace Nutrigrain bars. I usually buy the Trader Joe’s brand of bar that is just like the Nutrigrain ones. I’ve just begun the switch to real food and these bars are on the top of my list of things that make me feel guilty. My son just loves them so much so if I can find something to replace them, that would be awesome. Yes I have tried homemade but I just honestly right now don’t have the time to make them. Thanks for any help!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Starla. I’m not aware of one similar to a Nutrigrain bar. Lisa’s favorite bars are Lara Bars. :)

  4. thanks for the excellent blog! i just discovered you, and am super excited to learn about your endeavors!

    another alternative to store bought yogurt is to make your own in the crock pot. i was hesitant at first but finally just did it this week. it’s super easy, like only 3 steps. using organic whole milk, i made a delicious yogurt that is about 10% of the price of organic yogurt at the store. there are recipes all over the internet for crock pot yogurt.

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  6. William Hamilton

    I fully believe that big business and our government are again lying to us about High Fructose Corn Syrup. (HFCS)

    Starting in 1973 while we were struggling through a contrived gasoline shortage, cane sugar producers in central and South America claimed that freezing weather had caused a huge sugar shortage. So naturally the price of sugar went absurdly high over night and stayed there.

    Big business (lead by Coca Cola) set out to find a cheap substitute for cane sugar. Coca Cola went to great lengths to assure that they would never again be dependent on cane sugar producers. This is how High Fructose Corn Syrup found it’s way into our food supply. These big business food producers have a vast amount of money invested in HFCS and don’t want to give up the substantial savings they enjoy by substituting cane sugar with it.

    Our government and big business would have us believe that there are no health risks in using HFCS. I believe that our government is hiding the truth and is being paid off by the big business lobby. I say this because our government can’t answer this one troubling question…

    “Why (since 1973) has our population experienced vast weight gains and a tremendous increase in adult diabetes?” I never heard any talk about these problems prior to 1973.

  7. Be aware of other ingredients in addition (artifical colors, flavors, trans fats, refined grains, high sugar content etc.) to HFCS, if at all possible make your own from scratch, it’s the only way to assure pure ingredients.

    Buy farm fresh organic cream, yogurt, milk, cheese etc. Add fresh or frozen organic fruit to your yogurt with some flaxseed/meal.

    There is an ingredient in Pillsbury Dough Simply products that is not beneficial, but I cannot recall it at this time.

    Educate yourself, read ingredients and research what you question or what doesn’t sound ok to you…good luck!

  8. Lisa and Friends,
    A great cookie alternative is Simply by Pillsbury. They are delicious and Organic – Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter are our personal favorites.