Today I am sharing a “roundup” of the misleading products I’ve been sharing on Facebook lately. Just in case you missed some or need a friendly reminder…please don’t let the food industry fool you with these products!
I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the back of this taco seasoning packet and saw “Maltodextrin” as the first item on the ingredient list (meaning what it contains the most of). Maltodextrin is a filler found in highly processed foods and is usually made from corn. I don’t know about you but it’s not an additive I cook with at home. So then why would it be the main ingredient in something as simple as taco seasoning?
This is the pasta I used to buy before we cut out processed food because I thought it was the “healthier” stuff. But, the thing that makes pasta “real” is being made with whole grains. The first ingredient in this pasta (and what it contains the most of) is “semolina” flour, which is actually a refined grain. The whole grain version of semolina is called whole durum wheat.
Real Food Alternative: Whole-wheat pasta is pretty easy to find and usually only contains 1 ingredient: whole durum wheat. And the word “whole” is very important! If you are new to understanding grains check out our post about grains for more info.
It’s amazing how the food industry can take something as simple as plain breadcrumbs and make them full of so much junk. This one has more than 30 ingredients including high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (a.k.a. trans fat)! Not to mention it’s made with highly refined white flour (labeled as enriched flour).
Real Food Alternative: It’s easy to make your own bread crumbs (there’s a recipe at the end of this post), but if you don’t have time I like “Ian’s Whole-Wheat Panko Bread Crumbs” made with only a few simple ingredients. It comes in a yellow bag and is available in some grocery stores and on Amazon.
Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal
Out of all the label reading I do this one really upsets me. Quaker (you know the “heart healthy” breakfast) says this on their website about their Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal, “Imagine a warm summer morning and a fresh bowl of juicy, sun-ripened strawberries topped with rich, dairy cream. Now imagine all of that warmth and rich flavor in a bowl of Quaker Oats.” Yet, when you actually read the ingredients you’ll find that the pictured red fruit chunks aren’t even strawberries! They are dehydrated apple pieces treated with artificial strawberry flavor and red dye. Not to mention this product also contains partially hydrogenated oil (a.k.a. trans fat), and a few other strange things I would never make oatmeal with at home.
This “lemonade” product is another one that’s rather disturbing. Crystal Light’s “Natural Lemonade” mix doesn’t even contain a single drop of lemon or lemonade! Plus both its sweetener (aspartame) and yellow tint (yellow 5) are completely artificial. There are currently no regulations for slapping the word “natural” on a food package so don’t let this terminology fool you.
Real Food Alternative: Unfortunately even if you make REAL lemonade from scratch at home it calls for quite a bit of sugar. You are better off just squeezing a little fresh lemon juice in your water or saving lemonade for an extra special occasion!
This packet of Hidden Valley ranch seasoning looks pretty innocent…you just add sour cream and you have yourself a zesty dip for veggies. Except the fact that, according to the ingredients, it contains more maltodextrin (an additive made from corn), salt, and MSG than it does any actual herbs or spices.
I know “Cool Whip” is quick and easy, but I find it strange that it contains more water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (might contain trans fat), high-fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup than it does cream, which happens to be the main ingredient in REAL whipped cream. I know this product doesn’t claim to be “whipped cream” and instead calls itself a “whipped topping,” but let’s face it…we all know what this is trying to imitate!
Real Food Alternative: In case you’ve never tried making your own homemade whipped cream before it’s actually pretty easy…check out the simple instructions at the bottom of this chocolate torte recipe.
Uncrustables seem to be a pretty popular school lunch item. Just be sure to know they contain high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, AND sugar as well as partially hydrogenated oil (a.k.a. trans fat). This variety also uses bread made from refined white flour, dough conditioners, and quite a lot of other ingredients I cannot even pronounce and would never cook with at home.
Real Food Alternative: I don’t know about you, but when I make PB&J at home it doesn’t contain any of that junk. And you can even make your own “Uncrustable” sandwich with one of these handy little sandwich cutters/sealers from amazon (just wrap it up and throw it in the freezer when you are done)!
This product comes to you from the health food store (where you STILL have to read ingredient labels). The front of this healthy-looking brown box says “Crispy Wheat Crackers” but don’t let that lead you to believe there is anything “whole-wheat” about them. Even refined white flour comes from the wheat plant so if it doesn’t say the word “whole” then it’s not a “whole-wheat” product. I don’t understand why our society has given “whole-wheat” the nickname “wheat” because they are NOT the same thing and it makes things confusing! If you look at the ingredients on this box you can see these crackers contain no “whole wheat” flour at all…only refined “wheat flour” a.k.a. white flour.
I am guilty as charged because I used to buy this stuff for my kids. It was right there by the chocolate syrup, and I thought it would be a fun way to switch things up. But soon after my real food wake-up call I started raiding our pantry and fridge, and I was shocked to see (according to the ingredients) that this “strawberry” syrup doesn’t even contain any strawberries at all. The flavor and color are both completely artificial.
Real Food Alternative: If you are looking for a berry flavored drink try making this homemade berry sauce instead and sieve out the seeds…it would be great in some nice cold (organic) milk.
If I were to make sandwich bread at home it would take about 5 ingredients (whole-wheat flour, water, yeast, salt, and honey) and even if I were to add a few extras like nuts, seeds, and a different type of flour maybe we are up to 10 ingredients. So why does it take “Arnold” 31 ingredients including white flour (a.k.a. unbleached enriched wheat flour) to make their whole grain “Health Nut” bread?