It’s time for another “Misleading Product Roundup” recapping the food items I’ve shared with you on Facebook. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read the ingredients before buying any packaged food. It can feel tedious at first, but as you read through these examples below I think you’ll agree it’s a necessary evil! For more posts like this, be sure to check out Misleading Product Roundup I, II, and III.
I used to love this stuff, but then I read the back to see what they really put in it. High fructose corn syrup is the 2nd ingredient on the list! Not to mention the other questionable additives I do not cook with at home (sodium benzoate anyone?).
Real Food Alternative: How about mixing a few things together at home to make your own teriyaki marinade instead?
Try ½ cup soy sauce (low sodium recommended), ½ cup water, 3 tbsp honey, and 1 tbsp peeled & minced fresh ginger. You could also add some optional canned pineapple juice if you really want to emulate the pictured bottle.
The Lindt Chocolate ads drive me crazy. They say their chocolate is “pure” and “premium” and “expertly crafted with the finest ingredients.” Yet, when you turn it over to look at the ingredients you’ll find that almost all of their products are artificially flavored …not even the real deal! This is clearly misleading, and a reminder not to trust what these companies tell us and to instead read the ingredients to find out what’s really inside!
Real Food Alternative: I personally buy Green & Black’s 85% dark chocolate bars for a treat. The ingredients are: Organic Chocolate, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Cocoa, Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Vanilla Extract. I also like Alter Eco brand products.
Rold Gold Pretzels
I know pretzels are often touted as a healthy snack, but let’s not forget the national brands are mainly made from refined white flour (labeled as “wheat flour” without the word “whole”) and a few other additives. The issue with white flour is it’s just empty calories that have been stripped of all the important nutrients (and why it’s required to be enriched).
Real Food Alternative: They’re not easy to find, but there are a couple whole-wheat pretzel alternatives out there including one by Unique brand.
Does anyone else think it’s strange that this brownish looking Life Cereal has artificial yellow dye in it? This is the same dye that requires a warning label when used in Europe (that states “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”). Between this and the fake strawberries (that are really just artificially flavored/colored dried apple pieces) in their oatmeal packets, I am really not trusting Quaker anymore.
Real Food Alternative: When it comes to boxed cereal look for one that is 100% whole grain with nothing else (or at least not much else) added. Some examples are Shredded Wheat type cereals and puffed whole-grain cereals (like brown rice).
How can Dasani get away with calling this “Pink Lemonade” when it doesn’t even contain any lemons? Not to mention it says “Naturally Flavored with Other Natural Flavors” on the front when it contains multiple artificial sweeteners AND artificial colors – what the heck is natural about that? This to me looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen. In the meantime *please* don’t put this chemical concoction in your water!
Real Food Alternative: Either drink plain water (which can be an acquired taste for some) or use real lemons to add some flavor.
I must admit I was taken aback when I saw this little guy in the grocery store and turned it over to look at the ingredients. The first ingredient (and what it contains the most of) is propylene glycol?? And on top of that it’s full of artificial flavors and sweeteners. If this isn’t a “food like substance” I don’t know what is – PLEASE do not feed this stuff to your kids!
Real Food Alternative: It’s super easy and takes only 2 ingredients to make a more wholesome chocolate milk from scratch: Just mix 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened dark cocoa powder with 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup and about a 1/2 cup cold milk. It takes a few minutes of stirring to get the chocolate sauce to come together.
It makes me sad that some well-intended individuals will buy this V8 Splash in the hopes of adding veggies/fruit to their diet when it means they’ll also be getting a nice dose of high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners (sucralose), and – that mysterious additive – natural flavoring. I don’t trust brands who use ingredients like this.
Real Food Alternative: Unfortunately, even if it were a higher quality juice, it would still mainly be the naturally occurring sugars from the fruits and veggies in concentrated form without any of the other stuff (like fiber) that nature intended. So for that reason, juice is just an occasional thing for us personally. I say go for a glass of water or a smoothie (that retains the whole fruit/veggie) instead!
Ken’s Balsamic Dressing
I found this one interesting. This dressing is called “Balsamic with Honey” yet it contains more high fructose corn syrup and (refined) sugar than it does honey. Just another reminder to ignore the claims on the front of the package and read the ingredients instead. Oh and please don’t trust companies who do stuff like this!
Real Food Alternative: Many of you know by now, this is my most favorite kitchen tool for making homemade salad dressings a breeze.
WeightWatchers Smart Ones
I have no idea what is “smart” about this. Factory farmed chicken covered in fake grill marks mixed with white flour pasta and a bunch of additives I would never cook with at home (including corn syrup solids, shortening powder & carrageenan)? No, thank you.
Real Food Alternative: I’d much rather make my own organic creamy sauce from scratch with 3 ingredients (including real cream) instead. And thankfully it’s surprisingly easy to do!
SunMaid Yogurt Raisins
Has anyone else noticed how these yogurt covered raisins (that used to be a snack fav of ours in the old days) contain partially hydrogenated oil – a.k.a. trans fat? That’s the same artery clogging trans fat that the government recently admitted was no longer “generally recognized as safe” and therefore will be banned going forward. There’s also some other questionable stuff on this ingredient list so I’d say skip this bag of coated snacks.
Real Food Alternative: How about some plain (and preferably organic) raisins instead?
Progresso Bread Crumbs
Italian bread crumbs should simply be good quality whole wheat bread plus some seasonings. Yet, Progresso makes theirs with dozens of unnecessary refined additives including high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil (i.e. the same trans fat I mentioned above), several dough conditioners that I can’t even pronounce, preservatives, and the wonderfully evasive “natural flavors” ingredient.
Real Food Alternative: Why put this mess in your body when it’s so easy to make your own? I’ve got a super simple recipe in my cookbook, and all you have to do is add Italian seasoning when you’re done!
Mt. Olive Relish
Isn’t it amazing how a product as simple as relish can be tainted with artificial food dye (the same dye that requires a warning label when used in European countries)?
Real Food Alternative: For a relish without unwanted ingredients look for a brand called Bubbies.
So what did you think of this list? Learn anything new?
93 thoughts on “Misleading Product Roundup IV: Don’t Be Fooled”
This blog taught me to always alway read food labels. Once in awhile I make a slight concession on something…but at least it’s an informed decsion now and not one based on blindly following advertising.
Ohhhh the yogurt raisins make me sad! My daughter LOVES those. That and the breadcrumbs – ew. I was just about to say I knew about the rest but I did NOT know about the yellow dye in Life. My kids (and my husband!) will be sad when “daddy squares” no longer make an appearance in our house. Boo. I thought I was doing a pretty decent job with our food choices, but I apparently have a ways to go!
I have been buying V-8 Fusion. I could not find any mention of corn syrup or artificial sweeteners in it. Can someone please share with me – what I am missing in this product. I thought the Fusion brand of V-8 was the healthier choice in V-8 product line. Thanks! :)
Hi there. This post is is 16 months old. Fortunately food companies are starting to make important changes. Here is the current labeling info for v8 fusion: https://www.campbells.com/v8/faqs/.
Whenever I see “natural ingredients” I almost want to run. I did a project in college….natural means it comes from nature. So the example I use most frequently is natural raspberry flavoring (not always) is derived from a gland in the anus of beavers. It’s natural because it came from the beaver….however there is nothing NATURAL about flavoring you food with the excrement of another. Food for thought.
My husband and I had a hard time finding chocolate without soy lecticin. Trader joes organic bars are free of soy as well as Enjoy Life Chocolate chips. There are some other brands that don’t have soy that I get from regular stores like Sprouts, but we don’t buy them consistently since they’re more expensive.
I know this doesn’t pertain to food, but I just bought a tube of Tom’s toothpaste yesterday that clearly stated on the front that there were NO artificial sweeteners in it. I should have read the ingredient list before purchasing, but was in a hurry. After arriving home I looked on the back and under “other ingredients” was sorbitol and xylitol. How can companies get away with this? Clearly this is false advertising. When I returned the toothpaste to the store the lady said this was really a shame, but there wasn’t anything they could do about it
Sorbitol and Xylitol are sugar alcohols metabolized from corn and other fruits and vegetables. They are not artificial sweeteners.
I had to google what propylene glycol was: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=1120&tid=240
Usually I have a “three strikes, you’re out rule” for the foods I eat. I read my labels diligently! But propylene glycol is the one ingredient that gets an automatic out. I have had anaphylactic reactions to foods with this in it. I carry an epipen specifically for it. Before e-cigarettes were approved, I only had to worry about it in my bathroom products, and it was only a rash. But, now it’s everywhere. :(
This is terrible. Sorry to hear it effects you that bad. And they put this in kid food!! – Nicole
WHAT ABOUT BABY FORMULA?? !!
Hi. This might help: http://foodbabe.com/2013/05/28/how-to-find-the-safest-organic-infant-formula/.
Our store just started to carry the Bubie’s brand. I don’t think they are a fair comparison since those are naturally fermented instead of the vinegar brine in other pickels. Different process, different chemical reactions, different taste. They were okay, not enough to justify the 3x price difference. Sorry, I live in rural America where the nearest Trader Joe’s is 4 hours away. I usually make my own anyway.Vinegar is vinegar no matter where it comes from. Acetic acid is acetic acid.
What’s the problem with carrageen? It’s a type of seaweed.
Hi Brandy. Here is an article on carrageenan: http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/carrageenan-natural-ingredient-you-should-ban-your-diet.
All of the leading pickle brands use dye. I currently buy Boars Head, Trader Joe’s or my fav, McClure’s.
The food dye in absolutely unnecessary items like pickles and Life boggle me. I mean I get that they want green frosting on St. Patrick’s day cupcakes or something, but pickles are green anyway, they don’t need to be brighter. And I do not understand why Quaker puts food dye in Life. It’s a natural brown color! It’s not like Froot Loops where they’re trying to make them look like colorful fruit bunches. There are a ton of chocolate brands that sell 70%+ cocoa chocolate with real (though not organic) ingredients no need for the Lindt.
Nothing else on the list would be on my buy list anyway as it’s obviously over processed. I wish companies would get it together and start selling food with less fabrication.
Bubbies sauerkraut is also good. So good I haven’t made my own in a while! As for the previous comments on product comparison, the message is simply…. Read labels and make your own decisions. I personally would never buy milk chocolate, but I know some people love it. 75 and above organic dark chocolate is the only label I would bother to read. To each, his own, but be alert and informed.
what is even worse, everything has soy in it now.
Do you have a list of boxed cereals that fit the less than five requirement?
Cereal is a hit with my kids and one of the most challenging areas for us to switch to real foods. If you could point me to some ideas I will have three very thankful kids! Thank you for your help!
Hi Nikki. Lisa sometimes buys the organic 100% puffed or shredded wheat from Earth Fare. Otherwise, here go-to is her own homemade granola: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/04/04/recipe-granola-bars-cereal/. But honestly, it is very hard to find cereals that do not have added sugars.
Try muesli. I like Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli. It’s most affordable in bulk from Amazon but I’ve found it at a good price at Costco before too. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve found an affordable, “real,” organic muesli yet. Anyway, it’s delicious cold with milk, mixed with bananas and peanut butter or with organic unsweetened applesauce, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. It’s also great mixed with yogurt and berries or heated like traditional oatmeal. My two-year old eats almost nothing but this for breakfast.
Ooh! Scary chemical names! Maybe try researching what they are and what they do before you run screaming into the night.
We have. That’s why we’re screaming.
How about YOU research them. Then you wouldn’t have made such a ridiculous comment.
In response to Sophie’s remark about the two chocolate bars: another item which is important to note is the ORDER IN WHICH INGREDIENTS ARE LISTED on the label. . . sugar is the PRIMARY ingredient in the Lindt bar and is the fourth ingredient in Green and Black’s. I see a huge difference between these two bars, and while I know the sugary bar tastes best to most people, the better bar to grab if you are trying to retrain your sugar addicted tongue is the Green and Black’s.
Sue M- the comparison YOU make is a much more valid one than the one that is made in the article. There are certainly differences between the two bars which make Green & Black’s probably a better choice. In my opinion, it is more credible and makes a better case to compare two 85% cocoa bars than two different styles of chocolate bars. Sugar is the 1st ingredient in Green & Black’s sea salt bar as well (though it is a milk chocolate bar). 100 days of Real Food generally does an excellent job with this kind of thing, but there are a lot of similar sites that don’t and I would hate to see them start using unfair comparisons, just to increase the power of their message. Especially as it is ultimately a practice that undermines their credibility.
I like these articles, but I’d also like to see you be a little more careful about comparing apples to apples. i.e. you compare Lindt sea salt to Green and Black’s 85% cocoa chocolate bar. If you compare Lindt 85% cocoa bar to Green & Black’s 85% cocoa bar, the ingredients are the same. Chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla. So Green & Blacks may provide some advantage for being organic, but the ingredients are not different. Green & Blacks makes a milk chocolate sea salt bar, not a dark chocolate one, and it does contain soy lecithin, though not artificial flavorings. I love your site, your recipes and the work you do to raise awareness, but it does undermine your cause a la Food-babe to make these kinds of disingenuous comparisons.
I don’t think its the Cocoa she referring to..they are claiming to be pure yet they have artificial flavoring. ..who knows what that is. Since its not even listed…
i just read the back of the bread crumbs can the other day for the first time, too. What possible reason could they have for adding high fructose corn syrup!? I was shocked. So ridiculous!
I whole heartedly agree that all of this processed food is sub par to what we can make in our own kitchen. Back to basics! I recently wrote a two part series on how to make two months worth of breakfasts for a family of five, in eight hours (over two days). Here is a direct link to day one: http://inaweofeden.blogspot.com/2015/01/breakfast-fest-2015-day-1.html
Just remember for the teriyaki sauce, the soy sauce is made with soybeans. If the soybeans aren’t organic then they are more than likely GMO. Most soybeans in this country are GMO which is a whole different issue. Just be aware.
It’s intended for people like me, who are just learning.
I’m not sure who this article is intended for.
Anyone who has chosen to avoid artificial foods is going to avoid even looking at the foods listed here. And the people who don’t care, well.. don’t care.
This feels like the writer was just trying to show off how good they are at spotting artificial flavours in the wild.
I mean. The Lindt chocolates don’t even say “pure” anywhere on the packaging. Yet the writer felt the need to scold them for being “deceptive”.
This article was written for someone like me. I found it to be very helpful, thank you very much
I recently “retired” from North America’s largest food company where I made an iconic brand in a blue box that has a name which is only half accurate at best. You do not want to know what half really isn’t what the box says.
Ew. These posts just make me sad for the people who haven’t realized how easy it is to make homemade salad dressings, chocolate milk and snacks and feel that they have to resort to pre-packaged snacks and frozen dinners. Thanks for sharing!
I cannot find a pickle relish in my town without HFCS, food coloring or both. I have looked in every grocery store here! I now just dice good pickles for relish.. dill or bread and butter depending on whether I want sour or sweet.
Thanks Amy, we will be giving them a try!
We have a right to know what is in all of your food and with our ipiit app you can set preferences for example non-GMO and it will tell you when you scan the food labels if the food is good for you and if not provide you with alternatives! Our app is available to download for free on iPhone and Android