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.
Real Food Alternative: I find this unfortunate when it’s super simple to make your own ranch dip at home. My recipe has been adapted from the $5 Dinner Mom’s ranch salad dressing!
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?
204 thoughts on “Misleading Product Roundup: Don’t be Fooled”
Epicure is now selling in the US. They have a long list of never-evers and are GMO free. I always think that Lisa should sign up and sell the products as they are usually within her rules :)
Here is a link to read more about this wonderful company. I’m sure you can easily find a rep in your area. https://epicure.com/en-us/wholesome-ingredients
Let me translate this article: make everything yourself >_>
What about Crystal Light Pure? Is your take on it any different?
Not really, the ingredient list is not inline with our rules: sugar, citric acid, maltodextrin, calcium lactate, contains less than 2% of natural flavor, rebiana (truvia brand sweetener), sodium citrate, magnesium oxide, oleoresin, turmeric (for color).
Maltodextrin is in there as an anti caking agent btw, just fyi. Also, if you don’t like msg, better not eat home grown tomatoes, as they have a lot of it, and are the source.
I think that Nutella is getting a bad name lately. It is a topping for bread like jam which is another high sugar breakfast staple. italy has been spreading Nutella on bread for decades. It doesn’t really deserve the bad rap. Why not pick on jam for a bit?
The sodium in processed foods is enough to make one avoid all the center aisles of the grocery store as well! :).
Regarding Nutella – Smuckers strawberry jam is 24 g of sugar per 2T – even more than Nutella …
If anyone is looking for an amazing chocolate-hazelnut spread recipe, Whole Foods has one listed on their site. It really tastes like Nutella! The only ingredients are dates, almond milk, almonds, hazelnuts, cocoa powder and vanilla.
Ever since we discovered that my daughter has an MSG sensitivity (which is like 7 years), I’ve been reading labels. Processed foods are such a mess! Thank you for helping educate the masses about just how processed our “food” has become. Here’s to getting back to simple, nutritious eating!
I almost bought that pasta today. Then found one with only one ingredient. Store brand of all things. Getting better at reading labels and not just the nutritional stuff. Love following you.
Semolina is not highly processed. It is just ground durum wheat and should be the only ingredient other than salt and water in good pasta. The other stuff in Barilla pasta should be avoided.
Semolina is durum wheat with the bran and germ removed. Only the endosperm of pure starch remains. It is a processed and refined white carb.
Another comment regarding the pasta – while it *is* made with processed flour, people like myself have vegetarian kids who are also picky eaters. Having this blended with lentils, garbanzo beans, etc. ups the protein content of their meals. No matter how much they love beans, they will only eat so many. Would I prefer it to be made with whole wheat or white whole wheat? Of course, but occasionally we have to make concessions.
Banza chickpea pasta is lovely. I am totally picky and I LOVE it!!! :)
I did the Taco Seasoning and now have more than enough to last me for a while…one of the best subs yet and to be honest the chicken i did it on never tasted better using that kind of seasoning on it! I should’ve done it somewhat differently since I think I ended up semi frying it in OEVOO but still great ;)
I was shocked to recently read that Boars Head Virginia Brand Ham contains MSG as well as many other additives. Ingredients: Fresh ham, water, salt, sugar, dextrose, sodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate. Coated with a glaze of sugar, gelatin, cornstarch, dextrose, caramel color, sherry wine flavor (maltodextrin, sherry wine solids, citric acid), salt, canola oil, paprika, natural flavor. And I thought I was buying ham.
I was shocked the first time I checked the ingredients on the Old El Paso taco seasoning… I’ve been using this recipe to make my own seasoning and love it!
Would you please do a review of club house seasonings