Misleading Food Product Roundup II: Don’t Be Fooled

Today I am once again posting a “roundup” of the misleading food products I frequently share on Facebook…just in case you missed some of these or need a friendly reminder (or simply don’t use Facebook). Please don’t let the food industry fool you with these products!

First though, if you are trying to make the switch to real food then you’ll definitely want to know about our sponsor, Tribe Wellness. They provide virtual one-on-one “real food” consultations that can be customized to your family’s specific needs (budget, food allergies, etc.). And they are currently offering all new email subscribers a FREE “Shop Healthy Guide” that’s 9 pages full of tips on how to make healthy choices at the grocery store. Their motto at Tribe Wellness is “Eating Healthy Shouldn’t Be So Hard”, and they are so right! So if you need some extra help in figuring out how to painlessly switch your family to real food then visit their website.


GoGurt - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

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Yogurt seems like a pretty innocent snack, right? Well, take a closer look (at the ingredient list) and you’ll see that these “Strawberry Milkshake” and “Banana Split” flavored yogurt tubes don’t actually contain any strawberries or bananas at all! The flavors come from refined sugar and artificial flavors/dyes. Did you know that artificial dyes are derived from petroleum and require a warning label in some countries stating they “have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children?”

Real Food Alternative: Why not make your own yogurt tubes by filling reusable silicone molds with homemade smoothies, plain organic yogurt (that you flavor yourself), or even applesauce? My kids love the homemade versions!

Hot Cocoa

Hot Cocoa - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

When we picked out our Christmas tree last year they had hot chocolate available for the kids. I contemplated not even reading the packet (because my daughters were of course already drinking some!), but I couldn’t help myself and this is what I saw: corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil (i.e. trans fat), artificial flavor, and a bunch of other ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce. I understand this was a convenient and cheap way for them to offer refreshments to customers, but please know making “homemade” hot chocolate is super easy as well.

Real Food Alternative:
Just combine 1/2 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa (we prefer “special dark” 100% cacao) with 1 teaspoon of pure maple syrup and stir in 3/4 cup warm milk. If you own a milk frother use that to heat the milk for an extra special treat. This tastes so much better than those packets…and it’s better for you! :)

Ritz “Whole Wheat” Crackers

Ritz "Whole Wheat" Crackers - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

This is yet another reason to always read the ingredient label instead of just relying on the claims on the front of the package. These Ritz Crackers boast they contain “Whole Wheat” when in reality they contain more white flour (i.e. unbleached enriched wheat flour) than they do WHOLE wheat flour. They also offer a nice dose of sugar, partially hydrogenated oil (i.e. trans fat), and high fructose corn syrup as well.

Real Food Alternative: Eating some whole grains is certainly better than none, but as an alternative why not consider some 100% whole-wheat organic crackers like the ones by ak-mak instead (one of our favorites). They are available at Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare, and Amazon.

Trader Joe’s Pretzels

Trader Joes Pretzels - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

Please know if a product simply says “Honey Wheat” or “Wheat” that does not automatically translate into “Whole Wheat.” Refined white flour is made from the “wheat” plant so unless you see the word “whole” listed in front it’s likely not a whole grain product. For some reason our society has nicknamed “whole wheat” products as “wheat,” but they are usually not the same thing. These Trader Joe’s pretzels look incredibly similar, but the “Honey Wheat” ones on the left contain more honey than they do whole wheat flour and the ones on the right are 100% whole-wheat. In summary, “When highly processed (a.k.a. refined) white flour is made the nutritious bran and germ are removed and only the endosperm is left, which is basically high in calories and low in nutrients.”

Real Food Alternative: The whole grain version on the right are 100% whole wheat and therefore the better choice. Would your kids even notice the difference? Now this version does also contain a small amount of corn syrup, which I agree is less than ideal, but good-quality whole-wheat pretzels are unfortunately hard to come by!


Motts Strawberry Flavored Applesauce - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

We celebrated one of our daughter’s birthdays at Great Wolf Lodge (indoor waterpark) this year. The water slides were awesome, but I must say…the one meal we ate at their restaurant left a lot to be desired. Once or twice a year we’ll let our daughters order off the kids menu (the rest of the time they usually split an adult entree or a plate of side items), and this was one of those rare occasions. I honestly don’t expect much from any kids menu these days, but my husband and I were both perplexed with the little applesauce container that came on the side. Since when does something as simple as applesauce need both high-fructose corn syrup and artificial red dye added for it to be appealing to kids??

Real Food Alternative: It’s actually pretty easy to find simple, suitable applesauce at the grocery store (or you can of course make it yourself). Just look for applesauce that is both organic and unsweetened with only “organic apples” – and nothing else – listed on the ingredient label.

Log Cabin All Natural Table Syrup

Log Cabin All Natural Table Syrup - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

The syrup jug looks identical to the pure maple syrup containers and in big letters it boasts “no high fructose corn syrup” on the front. But when you turn it around you see that it’s made from brown rice syrup (yet another form of refined sugar) and not REAL maple syrup. These companies know many of us are busy and in a hurry and making decisions based on the front  of the package (and in this case the shape) so you have to be very careful when making purchases! In the end “sugar is sugar,” but we do like to avoid the refined (and artificial) stuff.

Real Food Alternative: Pure organic maple syrup (we usually buy grade B), but even then…use it in moderation!

Ken’s Steakhouse Honey Mustard Dressing

Kens Steakhouse Honey Mustard Dressing - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

Leave it to the food industry to muck up something as simple as honey mustard. In this version by Ken’s they put in more refined oil (that’s likely GMO) and high fructose corn syrup than they did honey or mustard! It also contains quite a few other questionable ingredients I wouldn’t think about putting in my salad dressing at home including calcium disodium edta, xantham gum, and artificial dye (yellow #5). Why am I even surprised?

Real Food Alternative: You can easily make honey mustard at home by combining equal parts honey and mustard (and optional olive oil).

Real Mint Jelly

Polaner "Real" Mint Jelly - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

I can’t say I’ve ever had mint jelly on anything myself, but this jar caught my eye because in big letters on the front it says “Real” Mint Jelly. So I of course wondered…what’s “real” about it? And as it turns out this product is basically a bunch of sugar (in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and sugar) that contains more “Citric Acid” and “Potassium Citrate” than it does actual “Oil of Spearmint.” Plus what makes the jelly so green is of course artificial dye.

Real Food Alternative: How about just some fresh mint leaves? Or if you prefer the jelly search for homemade recipes online.

Bac-Os Bits

Bac-Os Bits - Misleading Food Products II on 100 Days of Real Food

I recently learned that Betty Crocker’s “Bac-Os” Bits are vegan (meaning no animal products or by-products). What?!?! So I of course had to look up the ingredients and this is what I found: Defatted Soy Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Water, Salt, Sugar, Artificial and Natural Flavor, Red 40 and Other Color Added, Soy Sauce (Water, Wheat, Soybeans, Salt), Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn, Soy, Wheat). I didn’t exactly think this product would be “real” bacon, but I would have guessed it would at least contain some sort of meat product. But no this imitation food is made with artificial ingredients, trans fat, and a some other stuff I would never cook with at home!

Real Food Alternative: Organic (and/or locally raised) bacon. Yum.

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102 thoughts on “Misleading Food Product Roundup II: Don’t Be Fooled”

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  1. Can you tell me how you fill the silicon tubes with yogurt? My son is milk allergic and I want to fill these with soy yogurt and freeze them for his lunch but an wondering how to get the yogurt in the tube easily! Thanks!

  2. The fact that Baco-O bits are simultaneously terrifies and intrigues me. Not that they look, feel, or taste like bacon in any way.

  3. I love your way of making hot coco. I make it the same ay, but without maple syrup. Milk has a natural sweetness to me, so to me, unsweetened coco and milk taste better than conventional hot coco.

  4. I already make my own raw yogurt and would like to make some flavored yogurt tubes for the kids. I’m drawing a blank of what to add to them other then fruit. Do you have any other suggestions? Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks

  5. I have Xanthan Gum in my home, and according to the label it is a 100% natural plant derived ingredient. It apparently makes food thicker, so I can see why it’s necessary in something like salad dressing. But I’m not sure. What are your thoughts on this?

  6. Please check out this video if you havent already!! its a real eye opener about GMO’s. For all that care bout the food we put in our body, there is soooo much more to learn!

    GMO A Go Go!


    PS thank you for your blog, I have learned alot! and making the change to all “real food”.

  7. I’ve just discovered some grocery stores are using the NuVal system of rating food for nutritional value. What do you think of this?

      1. Thank you for looking. So far I have found that the Simple Truth brand allows me to buy some items cheaper than at other stores. But only when Kroger is running a sale. Otherwise Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc is actually cheaper.

  8. I recently am trying to switch to no artificial dyes and sweetners with my kids. I noticed a link you had awhile back for the silicone tubes. I bought some and they do not work… for school lunches anyways. My kids would always have a go-cart in their lunch. So instead I started making yogurt smoothies in my Magic Bullet, and pour some in the silicone tubes to freeze, and for them to take to school. The silicone tubes ALWAYS leak! And it’s a huge mess. Those tubes work well for at home use, but not for taking to school :(

  9. Jean, this blog is not to make you feel inadequate or attack anyone for the way they eat. It is simply a place to get yourself educated, you take that education and do what you will with it. I guarantee you that every.single.person. Who follows this blog is not a perfect eater. I am a busy wife and mother too, sole proprietor of a small business and have a special needs child. I do not make alot of money, either, by the time I pay my taxes. And I most certainly do not have the time to cook and clean all day.I have always felt welcomed on this blog, and not judged. We are all different people with different circumstances. This diversity is what makes the ‘world go around’. With that being said, either this blog is for you or it isn’t. My diet is certainly not perfect, it is an ongoing learning process. Every healthy meal i can prepare for my family is one less meal of processed, unhealthy junk. Even if I only have time to cook 1 “real food” meal that day, I know I have done something good for my family.

  10. I recently stopped giving my kiddos Go-Gurt and substituted it with Chobani Champion tubes. I read the ingredient labels of both products to my husband and we just couldn’t believe the difference between the two. I really feel Chobani is a great alternative to Go-Gurt if you need something quick.

  11. I love your site and the last couple of weeks have been trying to make everything from scratch. But a couple of nights ago I went to my husband in tears because I was so stressed out. We have six kids on a school teacher’s income. I want to eat like this all the time, but it is really hard! When I make meals for 8 people everyday I already have to double all the recipes which leaves nothing to freeze. I found that I was in the kitchen for hours and hours last week. We already spend so much on food and even though they are all whole foods, I have only been able to buy a few things that are organic because of our tight budget. We don’t drink alcohol or coffee or ever eat out, and we eat very little meat, so there are very few things that we can cut out due to expense. We only have one Whole Foods store and it is about 30 minutes away. We have Sprouts which sells good produce and a lot of really pricey fancy “organic junk food”. I’m not sure that I am looking for advice or just a place to vent, but I can’t unlearn this information! I feel so good, my four year old’s constipation is gone and my husband is loving it too. I just feel trapped when it comes to the money and availability of anything local or organic. And feeding teenage boys is a lot different than feeding my tiny little girls. I totally feel what you mean when you talked about how nice it was when we were oblivious as to what we were eating. Ignorance was bliss.
    Any advice from anyone with a large family and very tight budget?

    1. One of the things I feel is most helpful is to pick the most expensive produce that you use the most and grow it yourself. For us, it is peppers and tomatoes. You can easily grow it inside or out in a small space. I would rather buy whole foods that are not organic than junk food that is organic. I also found that our local butcher has great meat at a much lower price. The owner proudly traced the source of their meats to small, humanely raised farms. Although not organic, it helps me feed whole foods. Soak your non organic berries in a vinegar water solution.

    2. Single working Mom of only 2 (or 3-exchange student) here. Dried beans are my sanity and grocery bill saver. It takes minutes to put together black beans, black eyed peas, lentils, split peas or great northerns in the crockpot. On-line there’s lots of recipes, with different spices, some only vebetarian, some with added meat. There’s also a great deal of recipes that work quickly for yellow lentils, chick peas or mung beans. I usually quick soak these per the package and then either simmer them most of the evening or overnight them in the crockpot. We eat a mainly bean based recipe at least weekly, often with brown rice sometimes with bread. Also as you become more familiar with “your” recipes you become a lots faster. Finally sometimes you can combine two meal preps. If one needs to simmer on the stove (so you need to be near) you can prep stuff to put into crockpot for the next day, so you may spend an hour but it’s for two meal instead of one.

  12. The one thing that surprised me after going sugar-free was how sweet unsweetened applesauce taste like. I could never imagine buying the regular sweetened one now…..and bacon….nothing like the real stuff. I precut my bacon in small pieces and freeze it. Cooks up in a couple minutes.

  13. Hi Lisa! I appreciate your distaste for GOgurt — that stuff makes me so mad! And it’s not just all the ‘kid’ type yogurts that are so bad — pretty much all flavored yogurt is super-sugary! Plus, since you know I’M all into the health part of it all, plain yogurt also KNOCKS the pants off any flavored yogurt in it’s healthy bacteria content! Like you could have a cup of plain yogurt once a month, or the other stuff daily, and get more healthy bacteria, and less sugar from the plain! http://fresh-you.blogspot.com/2012/07/homemade-greek-frozen-yogurt-popsicles.html