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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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
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
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:
- Homemade Granola
- Easy Oatmeal
- Whole-Wheat Pancakes (also great leftover)
- Simple Yogurt Crunch
- Whole-Grain Pumpkin Muffins
- Or just scramble some eggs!
Bonus: Froot Loops (Obviously this isn’t misleading, but…)
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!