Misleading Product Roundup III: Don’t Be Fooled

It’s that time again for a “Misleading Product Roundup” in order to recap the food items I’ve been sharing on Facebook. I know we’re all currently caught up with the holiday craziness, but please don’t let the busyness cause you to be fooled by some of these highly processed products! And for more posts like this, check out Misleading Product Roundup I and II.

SunnyD

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

I never understood why anyone would choose watered down, artificially dyed corn syrup over real orange juice.

Real Food Alternative: Just go with the real thing. Or, better yet, eat an orange!

Betty Crocker Blueberry Muffins

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

I love how on the front Betty Crocker boasts that this product contains real blueberries, but of course there is no mention of how they are floating in high fructose corn syrup. This product also contains refined (white) flour, partially hydrogenated oil (i.e.. trans fat that is also probably GMO), refined sugar, more corn syrup, artificial flavor, and other questionable additives that I don’t cook with at home. I’d say this is pretty far from premium, and it certainly isn’t wholesome, in my opinion.

Real Food Alternative: How about making your own muffins from scratch using whole-wheat flour and real blueberries (that aren’t floating in highly processed syrup!)? Here’s a recipe to try.

French’s Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

Is it just me or does anyone else think it’s interesting how the food industry can take a simple recipe and muck it up with all sorts of unnecessary additives (including high fructose corn syrup)? I mean this product clearly states it is Honey Mustard, yet it contains more salt than honey!

Real Food Alternative: Luckily, making your own Honey Mustard Dip at home couldn’t be any easier. Simply mix together equal parts honey and mustard. Yep, that’s all there is to it. At least that’s the way it’s meant to be (hence the name!).

Campbell’s Tomato Soup

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

Who throws in a little high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) when making homemade tomato soup? That’s what I thought. On the front, Campbell’s claims this is a “Healthy Request” choice, but when I flip it over, I see HFCS, refined white flour (labeled as “wheat flour” without the word “whole”), refined oil (that’s likely GMO), something mysteriously listed as flavoring, and quite a few other things I don’t cook with at home.

Real Food Alternative: Yes, it’s more work, but totally worth it to make your own soup from scratch. Make a double batch and freeze the leftovers for a rainy day! (FYI – To make it vegetarian just omit the organic bacon and use vegetable broth instead.)

Morning Star Bacon Strips

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

Speaking of bacon, this product doesn’t contain any meat, but it sure does have a lot of other stuff in its 39 total ingredients, like artificial flavors, red #3, yellow #6, soybean oil with TBHQ, plus quite a lot of things I can’t even pronounce (and certainly wouldn’t cook with at home…would you?).

Real Food Alternative: Here’s my two cents-  If you want to be a vegetarian, then by all means be a vegetarian (i.e., eat vegetables, grains, dairy, fruit, etc.), but please do me a favor and avoid the imitation meat products. These “foods” are not even close to being real, and I would also be careful about trusting any food companies that freely use these types of ingredients.

Yoplait Yogurt

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

Did you know that food manufacturers even put artificial dyes in products like yogurt (see the red #40 listed)? Plus, I see other refined ingredients like modified corn starch, sugar, and even artificial sweetener. No, thank you!

Real Food Alternative: As far as yogurt goes, I always recommend to buy plain and flavor it yourself. And you can do that with a little pure maple syrup or honey or also homemade berry sauce. Yum!

Lunchables

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

Full disclosure: This list of ingredients is OLD. You want to know why? Shortly after I copied this off the Lunchables website, they removed their listing of ingredients. Hmmm… I wonder why? I’m just speculating here, but maybe because they were embarrassed to admit their PB&J + Fruit Lunchables contained 85 different ingredients, including hydrogenated oil (i.e., trans fat), high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor, BHT, and propylene glycol. It’s possible the ingredients have changed a tad since I copied these down, but I am not very hopeful there has been much of an improvement if this is where they started.

Real Food Alternative: Make your own homemade PB&J or lunchables (and get your kids to help). Check out my easy DIY guide!

Pop Tarts

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

For this one, I’m gonna compare PopTarts to the version they sell in England (I snapped a picture when we were there last year). Why does Kellogg’s sell their own US citizens a version made with artificial food dyes (derived from petroleum), but not our friends overseas? Plus, did anyone notice that this “Strawberry” product only contains “2% or less” of dried strawberries? In fact, these contain more salt than fruit. What these breakfast treats are really made with is plenty of refined sugar, because I can see that 3 of the top 4 ingredients (i.e., what the product contains the most of) includes corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose! It’s rare that I get surprised about these things anymore, but all I have to say about this is WOW.

Real Food Alternative: Sure, it’s more work to make your own Pop Tarts at home, but there is no better way to control the ingredients and avoid unwanted chemicals in your food. Here is a whole-wheat recipe that my girls and I love!

Coffee-Mate “Creamer”

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

Only the food industry could pass off this product as “coffee creamer” when it contains no actual cream or real milk. According to the ingredients, this is basically water, sugar, and partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil (i.e., trans fat that is likely GMO).

Real Food Alternative: How about just using real cream and sugar (or honey, or maple syrup) and a touch of pure vanilla extract the next time you need to add a little something to your coffee? Or you could make your own homemade flavored coffee creamers.

Smart Balance

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

What’s so smart about imitation butter that’s artificially flavored and made with refined oils (that are likely GMO)? Just go for REAL butter (preferably organic from grass-fed cows). If you are allergic to dairy, try coconut oil or olive oil instead, depending on the application. If you have trouble tolerating dairy, try clarified butter (a.k.a. ghee, since the milk solids have been boiled off).

Real Food Alternative:
Here is what I use instead of refined oils…

  • For baking (in place of liquid vegetable oil): Melted butter or melted coconut oil
  • For baking (in place of solid shortening): Cold/solid butter or coconut oil
  • For low temperature sautéing: Olive oil or real butter
  • For high temp sautéing: Clarified butter (a.k.a. ghee), coconut oil, or pastured lard
  • For deep frying (high temp): Pastured lard or coconut oil

FYI – If you are new to coconut oil, check out this post to see how it works (it can be kind of tricky).

Quaker Flavored Oatmeal

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

In my opinion, Quaker is one of the worst offenders when it comes to misleading consumers with their products. Yes, this is a whole grain cereal. I get that one advantage, BUT this “Peaches & Cream” variety doesn’t even contain any peaches or real cream. The fruit chunks are actually dehydrated apples disguised with artificial peach flavoring and color. They did the same thing with their “Strawberries & Cream” variety!

Real Food Alternative: Please don’t fall for this. Instead, make your own oatmeal and flavor it yourself. It really is a super easy dish to make from scratch. One of the great things about homemade oatmeal is that you can pronounce (and understand) all the ingredients and use real peaches and cream!

Special K Cereal

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

I often wonder why Special K is touted as a “good for you” cereal that will help you lose weight. When you look at the ingredients, you can see it’s basically a combination of refined grains (rice) and sugar. Whole grain rice would be listed as “brown rice” (the word “rice” by itself means it is refined, i.e., white rice). If you had this for breakfast, I bet you would be starving less than two hours later!

Real Food Alternative: When it comes to breakfast cereal, for a step up, look for something that lists a whole grain as the first ingredient (i.e., what it contains the most of) like whole wheat, brown rice, or oats. It would also be good if it didn’t contain refined sugar, which is listed under many different names like cane juice, brown rice syrup, etc.

Here are a few other even better real food breakfast ideas, if you’d be willing to make something yourself:

Bonus: Froot Loops (Obviously this isn’t misleading, but…)

Misleading Product Roundup III: Don't Be Fooled on 100 Days of #RealFood

Obviously this one isn’t misleading, because let’s hope we all know it’s not healthy, but am I the only one who just noticed this cereal is spelled “Froot” Loops not “Fruit” Loops? I recently wondered how they could get away with using that word on the front when this cereal is basically artificially colored sugar. Some highly processed products at least use a tiny bit of real fruit for the coloring effect, but not this one. Between the hydrogenated oil (i.e., trans fat), BHT, refined grains (that are likely GMO), artificial dyes, and LOADS of sugar, this one is a real winner to start your day with. If your kids are just dying to try some of this cereal, PLEASE do me a favor and at least call it what it really is…a dessert!

(FYI, this was my daughter’s breakfast of choice at overnight camp, which is why I decided to really analyze it!)

Real Food Alternative: See breakfast options just above!

 

Which items on this list surprise you the most? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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85 thoughts on “Misleading Product Roundup III: Don’t Be Fooled”

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  1. Thank You for the info Their were a few products that I didn’t know about Read the comment above Sorry that you took the heat for being informative I guess You can’t please everyone

  2. spencer Barriball

    You state: ‘If you want to be a vegetarian, then by all means be a vegetarian (i.e., eat vegetables, grains, dairy, fruit, etc.), but please do me a favor and avoid the imitation meat products. These “foods” are not even close to being real, and I would also be careful about trusting any food companies that freely use these types of ingredients.’
    What and you would eat meat…? Let me break down what meat is: we have blood, veins, tendons, muscle and flesh – the cut up corpse of a dismembered body. How does meat not qualify as gross and disgusting to everybody? Would you really put that in your body?
    And before you say something along the lines of ‘oh ‘but we’ve been eating animals for millions of years,’ I respond with the following: ‘Thanks for acknowledging that animals have been oppressed the longest.’ Of course, continue with an explanation about the absurdity of using ‘tradition’ as an excuse to justify slavery and murder.”
    To even think about putting someone else’s ribcage, legs, breasts on your plate is utterly gross and leads to a myriad of diseases such as heart disease and many cancers.
    I’d prefer it if you said the truth as your worried about your readers health: that is don’t eat meat – it’s killing you and our planet.

  3. Once, we had that muffin mix stuff in the pantry. When i decided to whip it up, i noticed the horrid berries in the can, so i went to my freezer and got organic frozen berries. Now i make all muffins from scratch , but that muffin was better with real berries

  4. Our family has been trying to focus on better rating and consuming real food as much as possible. I love your book and my girls favorite breakfast is your pumpkin muffins!
    Thanks for this blog. Always a good reminder, as I find myself having ups and downs in this process, and some days I don’t focus as we’ll in the real food as others.
    Anyway – I would like to pont out that I like A&M the factual information, but could do without your assumptions of “most likely GMO”. If you don’t know, then don’t throw it out there. The ingredient is bad enough on its own. If it IS GMO, then please inform us. But don’t try to make it scarier than it already is if it’s not known. You lose some credibility.

    1. Michele
      February 26, 2015 at 7:17 pm · Reply
      Our family has been trying to focus on better eating and consuming real food as much as possible. I love your book and my girls favorite breakfast is your pumpkin muffins!
      Thanks for this blog. Always a good reminder, as I find myself having ups and downs in this process, and some days I don’t focus as well on the real food as others.
      Anyway – I would like to point out that I like all the factual information, but could do without your assumptions of “most likely GMO”. If you don’t know, then don’t throw it out there. The ingredient is bad enough on its own. If it IS GMO, then please inform us. But don’t try to make it scarier than it already is if it’s not known. You lose some credibility.

  5. My granddaughter is 7 years old & she is allergic to dairy & food dye, it is so sad that she has to miss out on so many different food that you would not ever suspect to have food dye in them.When she goes to birthday parties she can’t have anything to eat because everything has dye in it. Her mother has to order her treats to go in her Easter basket because here in the USA they are too cheap to change things so they will be healthier for our families. It’s all about the colors so it will entice you to purchase their product. All they have to do is use our natural ingredients we already have to dye the products. They are so
    much healthier for us. Beet,carrots,blueberries just for an example & our children won’t be diagnosed with all sorts of things that are caused just by using the dyes & all that fructose in everything. I’m like you we need to go natural!!!

    1. I know this is over a year old, but if you have an Aldi near you, they have taken all their artificial colors and flavors out of their food. Most of their sweets are European (from Germany) and their foods are colored with natural colors. They occasionally have specials on some name brands that have not-so-great ingredients, but mostly, they just sell their store brand, which is great!

  6. I think it is a great idea to eat heathfuly as possible, and I think this series is very informative. But, when I look at many if these items they do not agree with the article title. Sunny-D, for example, does not have anything ‘Misleading’ on the label. Cool Whip does not claim to be whipped cream. These and many others in this series do not have misleading claims on their labels. If the goal of this blog is to make people aware of their better food choices it would be so nice to see one not have to use the same scare tactics and click-bait titles that are used everywhere else. I found out about this blog because it was liked by a friend and showed up on my facebook feed.

    1. Yes, they are extremely careful not to make “misleading” claims on their packaging. Theses companies have whole departments dedicated to avoiding legal difficulties resulting from any patently untrue statements.
      However, they also have employees who choose packaging colors, “heathy” imagery and wording for the products. They spend a lot of money and time on researching what fonts and colors inspire consumer trust. They have only a couple of seconds to get a consumer to pick their product.
      There are people who make their (very good) living from deciding what style of packaging will increase sales.
      An example of misleading advertising that springs to mind: no fat yoghurt with large writing proclaiming “fat free!”. No mention of the 30% sugar that replaces the fat.
      One could truthfully claim coke as “fat free!” too.

  7. Informative, unsettling and eye-opening. But, and I don’t know if this is a conscious choice or not, there’s a real tone of condensension towards non-omnivores here. Specifically, as a vegan I don’t eat butter (“grass fed” or not) because of the disgustingly rampant cruelty that virtually all dairy cows experience. To wit, there’s nothing “natural,” “healthy,” or “whole” about keeping an animal perpetually pregnant so that humans can suck down it’s mammary secretions (in various forms) instead of the naturally intended recipient, the cow’s offspring. Besides, some people, myself included, find the idea of spreading solidified animal breast milk on their toast disgusting. At any rate, I assume the tone is unintentional but, goodness gracious is it ever irritating to encounter while reading an otherwise highly informative blog post.

    1. I read no TONE in the post. The blog is titled “100 Days of Real Food”, not “100 Days of Vegan Food”. You, of course, have the right to your opinion, but you are in the minority. You, therefore, cannot expect everyone to be sensitive to your needs. Out of 13 products, less than half mention animal products. Your whole post is inflammatory and written with a “holier than thou” attitude. Lisa obviously eats meat, as do most of her readers. If you don’t, then find yourself a vegan blog, I’m sure they are out there. For full disclosure, I happen to find solidified animal breast milk delightful! In fact I am a huge fan of all animal breast milk procucts.

  8. I’m with Sean in the fact that your context about GMOs couldn’t have been more off-base and misleading. Unless fats are derived from soy or canola, you don’t have to worry about them being GMOs. Likewise, GMOs don’t pose any real risk to our health. I thoroughly agree with avoiding all the sugar/processed fats/processed carbs in
    our diets, but cut the fear mongering and falsities about GMOs.

    1. You must work for the govt. My daughter has chronic health issues and when she elliminated GMOs from her diet, most of them cleared up. The rest was due to gluten. How do you explain that one?

      1. Because GMOs are prevalent in 80% of our processed foods and aren’t really found in produce (except maybe papaya), I assume that in your quest to get to the root of your daughter’s issues you cut out a lot of those foods. Processed foods, GMO or not, shouldn’t be the main part of our diets anyway. I obviously don’t know your life, but I’d venture to guess that it was the act of reducing junk food/trying to eat healthier all together that caused improvements… not solely cutting out GMOs. I’ve had a bout of stomach issues myself (later found out it was a chronic case of appendicitis, not a dietary issue), so I do understand the struggle. And news flash: One doesn’t have to be a government or Monsanto employee to be a GMO proponent.

  9. Love these posts….. Ive been on my real food journey for a while now, but these are great to remind me (and newbies) of the importance of reading labels! AND the bacon strips look just like the dog treats…. just sayin ;)

  10. Other countries are just different not always more stringent. I have spent a lot of time in England. Many of their food products contain artificial sweeteners and they aren’t labeled as such. They don’t have to be considered diet either to have the artificial sweeteners.

    1. Yes – Europe is not just “Europe”, even if 28 countries to date are part of the European (dis)Union – there are still a lot of differences and EFSA is only a couple of years old…

  11. In reading about the poptarts, it’s shocking to me to learn that other countries are more stringent than ours about what ingredients they allow in their food products.

    1. Fruit Loops in Europe also look differently than Fruit Loops in the US; they have 1/3 less sugar and are coloured with fruit and vegetable extracts. A company is concerned about their pockets and not about our health and is producing the stuff that sells best – that applies to ALL companies, no matter if they are small, big, organic or non-organic. European food regulation is in some ways more, in some ways less stringent than US food regulation. A major difference I see between the two countries is the action of food activists – the European activists are more knowledgable and hence more influential.

  12. Thanks so much Mae Beigh and Bridget. I really appreciate the feedback!

    I do like the Earth Balance Organic, and figured I was at least doing better than regular butter/margarine but who knows. It does taste good on toast!

    I will definitely be trying the coconut butter soon.

    Thanks again!

  13. I can’t believe people still buy SunnyD 😱! I haven’t seen it since I was a teen and assumed it wasn’t on the market anymore. It’s a shame that some people actually prefer the taste of fake orange juice over the real stuff because their taste buds have been trained to reject real food.