Real Food Tips: 3 Deceiving Food Products

When I give my “100 Days of Real Foodpresentations I routinely bring along a grocery bag full of “tricky” food products to discuss. Here are a few the items I share:

1. Garden Veggie Sticks

Ingredients*(according to Amazon.com as of May 2012):
Potato Flour, Rice Flour, Expeller Pressed Sunflower Oil
, Spinach Powder, Tomato Powder, Sea Salt, and Beet Powders

Reality Check:
I called the company myself to find out exactly how these “Veggie Sticks” are made, and what I learned is that they are deep-fried in oil. Last time I checked “French fries” are potatoes deep-fried in oil and if you look at the first three ingredients on the list above (which reflects what this product contains the most of*) these “veggie sticks” are basically potato flour (and rice flour) also deep-fried in oil. Yes, they also contain some spinach powder, tomato powder and beet powder, but let’s face it they contain more oil than any of these so-called veggie “powders.”

Keep enjoying Veggie Sticks if you’d like, but please don’t be fooled into thinking that they are a replacement for real vegetables. I think they are perfectly fine as an occasional treat, and I would personally classify them as a couple small steps above French fries.

Real Food Alternatives:
If you are looking for a crunchy replacement snack try whole-grain pretzels, whole-grain crackers, popcorn, or (I’m gonna say it) some fresh crunchy raw vegetables like carrots, bell peppers or celery. If your kids aren’t into raw veggies try offering them with a dip like homemade ranch or hummus. You could also try making your own real “veggie chips” with our Kale Chip recipe.

2. Yoplait “Light” Yogurt

Ingredients* (according to Amazon.com as of May 2012):
Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Strawberries, Modified Corn Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Aspartame, Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Natural Flavor, Red No. 40, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3

Reality Check:
Based on the ingredient list above this product contains more high fructose corn syrup than it does strawberries. And if you love this yogurt please don’t shoot the messenger because this information is right there on the label for anyone to see! This product also contains artificial sweetener (aspartame) and artificial dyes (red no. 40). Possibly more than you bargained for in a supposed “healthy” light yogurt?

Alternatives:
When buying yogurt there are three key things to look for…
1. Plain – Flavor it yourself! We like using homemade berry sauce or a simple maple syrup/vanilla extra combo.
2. Whole milk / full fat – Unfortunately (fortunately?) low-fat products are just more processed, which is exactly why we avoid them.
3. Organic – Unlike fruit and veggies you can’t peel or rinse off dairy products so I definitely recommend springing for the organic version if you can.

Note: A lot of people ask about “Greek” yogurt and as long as it meets these three recommended requirements (plain, full fat, and organic) it’s a good choice as well.

3. Trader Joe’s Multigrain Crackers

Ingredients* (according to the package I hold in my hands as of May 2012):
Enriched flour
(wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sunflower oil, sugar, scotch oatmeal, inulin, rye flour, multigrain flour blend (wheat, rye, triticale, barley, corn, millet, soybean, sunflower seeds, rice, flax, durum, oats), wheat germ, modified corn starch, salt, invert syrup, sodium bicarbonate, onion powder, malt flour, monocalcium phosphate, microbial enzymes

Reality Check:
Multi-grain is very commonly confused with “whole-grain,” and the bottom line is they have similar names, but mean two different things. Multi-grain simply means the product contains different grains, which could or could not be highly refined. Whole-grain means the product contains “whole” grain ingredients, which have not been stripped of any beneficial nutrients. For a more in-depth explanation of whole-grain vs. multi-grain – including a full-fledged diagram of a grain! – check out our “Understanding Grains” post.

So with that being said when I look at the ingredients above what I see is this product is made mainly from “enriched flour” a.k.a. white flour and that it contains more oil and salt than any whole grains. Sure, it’s Trader Joe’s so there are no artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oils, which is desirable, but still this product is far from 100% whole grain if that’s what you are going for.

Alternatives:
Some whole-grain cracker options include Ak-Mak (also sold at Trader Joe’s and they are organic), Multi-Seed Original (these are gluten-free in case you have an allergy/intolerance), or Triscuits (which still contain refined oil, but they are 100% whole-grain and contain only 3 ingredients). Or you could always make your own Easy Cheesy Crackers…it’s not as hard as you think! :)

*According to the FDA’s website “Listing ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first.” So in short – what the product contains the most of you’ll find listed first.

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157 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 3 Deceiving Food Products”

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  1. I don’t think she thinks that people think they are a replacement but people do think these types of snacks are healthy which is far from the truth. I apreciate all the info provided in your blog lisa! I just got the new cookbook and so far have loved the 5 recipes I have tried. Quick easy homemade goodness. Trying to convert to Whole Foods one baby step at a time and loving it. Thanks so much for putting this out into the world. Your an inspiration !

  2. Do you actually believe people think the veggie straws are a replacement, as you say, for real vegetables?

    They are in a chip bag, and in the chip aisle…no one thinks they are a replacement for vegetables.

    Come on…

    1. I have friends who do believe these are healthy because they are made of “vegetables”. I have tried to tell them that they are no different than potato chips …….

  3. I apologize if this has been answered some place else (I tried to search first), but what about other flours like coconut or almond flour? Would Lisa use these?

    Thank you!

    1. Lisa doesn’t use those flours because she doesn’t need to be GF, but they are whole food flours. I use them all the time do to my family being GF.

  4. LOL! I came across this issue just yesterday. I was at my In-laws house and there are always temptations there. My daughter asked to have some veggie straws because she LOOOOVES them. I said, “you know they are just junk food, right?” She said yes but she still likes them. I replied, “well, go ahead as long as you eat them knowing they are junk food…” sigh… At least she is learning the difference.

    1. There is no difference in the meaning of the Organic logo’s color. It just depends on what the manufacturer wants. Sometimes the green one clashes with the other colors on the package, so they go with the black. Sometimes they want the green one because it stands out more. Completely up to the manufacturer. (I work for a company that produces Organic products and am responsible for maintaining the Organic certification).

  5. FYI – Yoplait Light Yogurt has recently changed their recipe. They took out the HFCS and now use real sugar. They also took out the Aspartame and now use Sucralose. I’m not saying it’s actually any healthier but I do feel like it’s a tiny baby step in the right direction.

  6. Hello, I was not sure where else to post this so, here goes. Recently I noticed that Costco started carrying Theperfectfoodsbar. I decided to check out their website and am curious to know if anyone else has noticed a discrepancy in the front of the wrapper that claims “organic peanuts and honey” and the ingredient list which states peanut butter (not organic peanut butter). The bar which contains almond butter clearly states “organic almond butter” on the ingredient list so I am pretty sure the peanut butter is not organic. I would like to write them to ask why they are presenting this in a deceiving manner about the peanut butter being organic if it is not! I do realize it says organic “peanuts” not “organic peanut butter” on the front wrapper but I am pretty sure peanuts
    are not listed separate from peanut butter on the ingredient list.
    So to me that would indicate that the peanut butter is organic, until I read the ingredient list.

  7. How do you feel about “Mary’s Gone Crackers”? They are a seed cracker, gluten-free and seem very similar to the Multi Seed Originals that you recommended. My toddler loves them, but isn’t too excited about Ak-Mok. Also, they sell them at Costco, which is always a +.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Elisa. The Leakes stick pretty close to their “Ak-Maks” as thier cracker of choice because they are 100% whole grain with a short wholesome ingredient list. I, personally, rely on “Mary’s Gone Crackers” because they are gluten free (necessary in my home), non-gmo verified, organic, and 100% whole grain. That is a far cry from most crackers in a box. :) Amy

  8. Hi, I love this site, trying to read some every day to get more and more educated!
    I’m wondering if you know what it means when ingredient lists say “natural flavours”.
    Thank you!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Evelyn. Unfortunately, here is “natural flavors” as defined by the Feds: “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” Which really means it could be anything approved for use in food. Also, companies often use “natural flavors” to protect their proprietary ingredients. Hope that answers your question. ~Amy

  9. I love your blog, and already practice a lot of what you post here. I did want everyone to be aware that a lot of people seem to have the misguided idea that if you shop at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, you’re getting “healthy” food. But people shouldn’t mistake Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods for a store that you can just walk in to and buy anything off the shelf without having to read the ingredients label. As with everything else, if it’s not organic, you can pretty much bank on the fact that it contains GMOs. If it has rice, soy, or corn products, and it’s not organic, it’s GMO, regardless of the establishment from where it was purchased. If you read food labels, you can guarantee that just about EVERYTHING contains some form of soy, corn and/or rice by-product. These are the biggest GMOs, but not the only ones, so do some research and educate yourselves, so you can make informed choices since the government has made it quite clear that it refuses to let us know which products contain GMOs. As I always say, if it isn’t labeled, you can be sure there’s GMOs in it.

  10. I know #2 is for light yogurt but I was wondering if “low fat” works the same way for cottage cheese? Would regular cottage cheese be better?

  11. We love Trader Joe’s for the affordable organics they carry, but still need to read the labels. We like the Edamame crackers and if my 2 year old will eat them, most older kids probably will too!!

  12. Thanks for telling it like it is. Hard to take the time to read labels to verify the truth of the advertising claims, but I guess there are no shortcuts.

  13. I wish you had said a little more on #1. I don’t know if it’s true, but I vividly remember reading about potato flour in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”: ‘Potato flour is the waste of potato after the starch and alcohol have been extracted; it has no more food value than so much wood, and as its use as a food adulterant is a penal offense in Europe, thousands of tons of it are shipped to America every year.’

    He wrote about people dying of malnutrition while eating potato-flour-stuffed sausages. Creepy, huh?

  14. I see that there is also corn starch in Yoplait. Anything with any derivative of corn in it, unless it is organic, should also be avoided as any GMO ingredient encourages more eating and therefore weight gain. Also scientific research has shown that there may be a direct link to cancer with GMO corn.

  15. Just saw a commercial today from Yoplait that they have removed the high fructose corn syrup from light and original yogurts. The commercial ended with something like, “Let us know if there’s anything else we can do.” Maybe they would be a good company to ask to remove their artificial food colorings (and artificial sweetener), since Kraft has been so resistant. Just a thought!

    1. Yes! I brought this up before as well – I think this would be a better one than Kraft, since people think of this food as healthy or at least “healthier” … I’d rather give my son most ice creams than a GoGurt, yet lots of moms supply those in school lunches as a healthy dairy item … yuck!

  16. I noticed on the third item, the multi-grain crackers, sunflower oil was highlighted. I thought sunflower oil was a good oil to use when heating the cooked item to a high temperature?…I’m not sure if you read/respond to questions to early blogs, but I’m fairly new to your blog & I’m trying to read up on all the good info! thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Eliza. Here is a post on the oils that might help to answer your question…https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/05/14/mini-pledge-week-10-no-refined-oils/. We previously responded to a question on sunflower oil as follows: “To answer some of the questions about sunflower oil – Sunflower oil contains over 50% omega-6 and minimal amounts of omega-3. Research continues to show the dangers of excess omega-6 oils in the diet so they should be strictly limited. Sunflower oil should not be consumed after it’s been heated. Sunflower oil is more stable than other oils but it is difficult to find a truly cold-pressed version of this oil. It’s better to reach for other oils such as organic coconut oil, butter, or ghee since they are higher in omega-3 fatty acids. (paraphrased from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions).” Hope this is helpful in answering your question. Thanks for reading…we hope you will enjoy the blog. Jill

  17. A friend of mine recommended this website on FaceBook and I have been enjoying reading the comments and suggestions. For some years now I have been cooking from scratch, learnt how to grow and can and preserve my own veggies. It can get quite humid where we live and our dehydrated fruit doesn’t have much shelf life as we don’t use any preservatives on it. A friend of mine told me to dehydrate the fruit and store in air tight containers in the freezer. If you eat it immediately after removing from the freezer it is crispy and not freezing cold and totally edible. Hope this suggestion helps the folks that were commenting on home made dehydrated food not being crispy enough.

  18. Hello I was wondering if you had a recipe that you use for focaccia bread? All of the ones I find use sugar and white flour….Thank you!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi April. We don’t have a recipe to share. You could consider substituting some of the ingredients in the recipe you have and see how that works. Good luck. Jill

  19. Lauren Bristow

    Lisa and others

    My husband and I just finished watching “Forks Over Knives” and would like to have your take on this. They of course recommend no dairy.

    Thanks,

    Lauren Bristow

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I did see Forks over Knives and I think it’s hard to say that eating “vegan” was the only reason those in the movie experienced such amazing changes in health. The guy at the beginning of the documentary was drinking tons of red bull and of course cutting out junk like that (when he went vegan) would make a difference! I think there is lots of overlap though too…processed food is bad and real food (including produce/veggies) is good! We don’t plan to change anything as a result of the movie. It’s hard to imagine humanely raised animal products – that have been a part of our ancestors’ diets for centuries – to not be “okay.”

  20. While I don’t view the Veggie Sticks as a replacement to my beloved fresh veggies (LOVE me some local NC produce), I must say that I do Love them! :)

  21. Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so negative. It just feels like some days I just don’t know what to eat because something isn’t safe or healthy. It’s so overwhelming at times. I guess it’s just one of those days today.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I can totally relate! I also feel like that occasionally…like if you look hard enough you’ll find something “wrong” with just about everything, but what’s funny to me is how quite a lot of people think there’s not much to eat if you don’t buy processed food. Even during our strict 100-day pledge people thought we were “starving” because what could we possibly be eating if it didn’t come out of a package! Once you get used to avoiding processed food I promise things get much easier…it slowly becomes your “new normal” and you find there is so much to choose from (literally an endless amount of recipes/choices/ideas). People have only been eating processed food for the last 50 – 60 years so we just eat what all our ancestors survived on for centuries before that. I hope that helps!

  22. It sure is hard to eat anymore! I’m beginning to think EVERYTHING is bad for you. I guess sticking to the very basics is safest. Some days it’s so discouraging, and I wonder what is healthy and safe to eat.

  23. Thank you so much for you blog! It has really opened my eyes and changed my life. I love yogurt and of course realized only the plain yogurt was truly a real food item I could buy. Has anyone ever tried to make their own yogurt? I would love to know if it is possible. thank you again for all of your hard work, advice and tips!

    1. I have a yogurt maker and LOVE it! I received it as a gift so I don’t know how much they cost, but it would be worth the investment. Most yogurt makers call for heating milk to a certain temp, letting it cool to a certain temp, adding a “starter” (plain yogurt) and then putting it in the yogurt maker for the specified time. The one I have uses 42oz of milk (1 quart plus 1 1/4 cup) for one batch and I get 7 servings. It “cooks” the yogurt in small jars that have lids so I can just grab and go :) I use one of the jars as my starter for the next batch since it’s the exact amount called for in the instructions. It would definitely be worth the investment!

      1. Jennifer – could you tell us what brand yogurt maker it is? I haven’t found one yet that I don’t have to pre-warm the milk, and that has been my only reservation in buying one.

  24. I’m looking at the Trader Joe’s crackers’ ingredients, specifically niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, inulin, triticale, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate, microbial enzymes. Generally, when I buy groceries, if I see ingredients like this, I put the product back because I don’t know what the ingredients are exactly, and they look like something I learned in chemistry. What are your thoughts on ingredients like these?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Ingredients like that are usually extra nutrients to make up for the fact that refined grains (a.k.a. white flour) have been used. You don’t see that type of stuff on the list when whole-wheat flour is the main ingredient, because it naturally contains all the good vitamins and minerals. It’s hard to recreate nature though so it’s best to just go with the real thing.

  25. Leslie – Target sells Happy Baby Organic puffs – I have the sweet potato on hand right here. There is no added sugar, they are dairy, gluten, corn and soy free. 1g of sugar in 1/2 cup of puffs (mine only get about 5-10 right now).

    Ingredients: Organic brown rice flour, organic rice flour, organic apple juice concentrate (not sure about this one), calcium, organic sweet potato. Then a list of vitamins and minerals.

    There are other varieties but I’m trying to avoid wheat products in my household.

    Unfortunately, we aren’t quite at the finger food stage, otherwise we’d be doing fruit and veggie pieces soft steamed, but the twins can munch on these while we’re eating. It keeps them from screaming when they’ve already eaten…so at least we can eat ourselves.

    As far as all the added vitamins an minerals are concerned – I’m sure this is not real food since they add it, but what are your thoughts on that?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      The vitamins and minerals are often times added when refined grains are used (like the organic rice flour that is not “brown” and therefore not whole grain). Since refined grains are not very nutritious on their own food scientists try to add back in what they think they are missing, which isn’t nearly as effective as just eating the whole grain itself. It’s hard to recreate nature. I hope that helps!

  26. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making this so easy for the rest of us! What a great service you’re providing to us and our families!

  27. I’m curious about the Yogurt Melts for babies. I have a friend who thinks I am crazy about all trying to do “real” foods and tried to convince me that the yogurt melts were really healthy for her little one. My assumption is they are not.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      It all depends on the ingredients listed on the package…I am not familiar with that product.

    2. I was just looking at the ingredients on the yogurt melts the other day. I can’t remember exactly, but I know sugar was one of the first ingredients and there were a multitude of ingredients so I put them back. Sugar is second or third on the list for Puffs as well. I can’t believe that I used to give them to my other kids! Makes me so sad how they advertise food as being healthy when it’s not. Babies don’t need things sweetened! It’s crazy!

    3. It depends what brand you get. I know Happy Baby or one of the organic baby products companies makes them without sugar or anything artificial…but I do not have the package in front of me to say for sure. I am/was veyr picky with my babies, though, so I’m fairly confident there are some brands you can find where they are ok.

  28. Lee, that’s a good point. All the different flour types and how they are labelled gets really confusing! White, wheat, whole wheat, unbleached, enriched… Lisa, do you have a good reference for learning more about flour?

  29. Speaking of labels, you’ll appreciate this. I was at a bigbox store that shall go nameless– okay, okay, it was Costco. Anyway, a guy was giving out samples of a focaccia pizza. “No white flour!” he said to me, so I looked at the label. “Unbleached wheat flour,” I read. “This has white flour,” I said aloud. “See? Wheat flour.”
    “That’s right, no white flour,” he said.
    “White flour IS wheat flour,” I said.
    “This doesn’t have white flour, just wheat flour.”
    At this point I gave up, but I felt depressed that he was going to repeat that incorrect information to hundreds of people. No wonder people have so much trouble figuring out what to buy and what the labels mean!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      White vs. Wheat vs. Whole-Wheat is unfortunately one of the most confusing aspects of label reading! I am not sure when it happened, but our society at some point gave “whole-wheat bread” the nickname “wheat bread” even though white flour is also made from the wheat plant. And from there it has been lots of confusion ever since. Good for you for trying to spread the word though :)

  30. What type of yogurt do you buy? I used to be a Yoplait Lite girl all the way, but since reading about all the awful additives, I’ve given it up completely. I do miss having some yogurt now and then, though.

  31. I am new to this kind of eating. For the next 6 weeks I can have no sugar, no wheat, no chocolate, no banana’s and no cheese. Plus no fried or deep fried foods. It is really hard to read labels and find food that I can safely eat. All this tips are very helpful. Thanks everybody, keep them coming.

  32. Thank you thank you thank you for this post Lisa! I LOVE that you not only explained why those weren’t the best choices, but also provided healthy alternatives. As someone who is fairly new on this real food journey, it can be very frustrating to hear about all the things we AREN’T supposed to eat without suggesting things we CAN eat. Again, thanks for the information, you are really making a huge difference to so many people. Keep up the great work!

  33. For those of you with a Whole Foods Market, they have a Triscuit-type cracker called Woven Wheats that contains just whole wheat and salt. We try to avoid boxes, but there are times when having a box of crackers is a lifesaver!

  34. My go to snack lately is whole milk plain yogurt, blueberries, slivered almonds for crunch, and a couple squirts of honey. Love it!! (Great post!)

  35. Favorite Yogurt EVER:

    Plain yogurt… with honey on it. It’s like a dessert. It’s amazing. I’ll never buy flavored yogurt again.

  36. I love your website! I just wanted to point out that if you want to avoid unnatural stuff in your food you might want to steer clear of Triscuits. Their packaging is sprayed with the preservative BHT which is made with petroleum. I was a huge fan of them until I discovered that…packaging leaks into the food so it’s not a good bet.

    Anyway, keep the blogs coming. Their great!!

    1. Sadness!!!

      I was just wondering where did you find that information? I would like to know a source for myself!!! Thanks!

  37. YAY Susan regarding fat! You get it!!!! And yes, Kerry Gold rocks (as does Purity Farms ghee!)

    Courtney – oil is definitely NOT oil. There are good oils (olive if not heated very high, coconut, and non-GMO organic grass-fed butter/ghee) and bad oil (vegetable, canola, palm, etc….).

    Regarding yogurt, good whole milk yogurt from pasture fed cows that is minimally pasturized and unhomogenized – plain higher fat greek yogurt would do in a pinch compared to the crappier stuff.

    Regarding multi vs. whole grain – NO GRAINS. That GMO stuff is toxic!

    To better health!

    Kevin

  38. I discovered veggie straws before I switched to whole foods…yum! Then I made the switch and read the ingredients. Bummer :( Maybe every once in awhile I’ll indulge! That is a deceptive name though.

  39. I think I just posted this on your fb page but the “back to nature” brand of crackers has a whole wheat triscuty type cracker the I think only has 3, maybe 4 ingredients. Anf I’m pretty sure no oil.

  40. I’m wondering how you handle if, let’s say, you had some lovely in-laws who loved to feed your kids lots of UnReal Food. I’ve let it go in the past but am thinking about piping up a bit more and am curious as to how you handle how/what your kiddos eat outside of the home…I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    1. I have this problem with my own mother, who will buy my 9 year old ice cream, frozen non coffee treats at Starbucks and all kinds of crap. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I’m very frank with my mom. I tell her, “we don’t want her (my daughter) eating that kind of stuff. We’re doing REAL, WHOLE foods whenever possible, so please don’t get her that crap!” Bottom line, we’re the mother’s and our family members need to understand that. Also, try sending your child WITH snacks and such, and let your family know that it’s there. That way, hopefully they will reach for what you’ve already provided and see that your child enjoys it :) Good luck!

      1. We’ve just begun to make the switch, although we’re not completely converted yet (but we’re certainly better than we were!). I try and send my own food/snacks with my daughter when she is not at home, but most of the time they’re still in her bag. I’m trying to figure out how to explain to our friends and family what we’re trying to do without coming off “better than”. People looked at me like I had ten heads when I mentioned that she didn’t get traditional candy in her Easter basket, and I’ve already gotten the old “you were raised on it and it didn’t hurt you” speech. For now I’m taking comfort in the fact that at least when she’s home and under my eye she’s eating better. I’m finding lots of inspiration in this blog, so keep it coming! Thanks!!

      2. 100 Days of Real Food

        Trish – I don’t know if this will help at all, but occasionally when I am dropping my kids off for a playdate I’ll sometimes say “I made a batch of muffins for everyone!” and drop off a cute little paper plate full of fresh whole-grain muffins (for all the kids to share…not just my daughters). I don’t have time to do that a lot, but it seems to work when I do.

      3. I know how you feel. But then last weekend I made popsicles with unsweetened grape juice, and my son took 4 of them outside to share with other kids. They all loved them, and I felt good that he was sharing, eating good food, and hopefully in a small way showing other kids that “natural” isn’t a synonym for “boring.”

    2. I think it is best to avoid confrontation about food. If you want to share some real foods or send them with your kids and reassure the in-laws that the kids love them, that is one thing, but I’ve heard horror stories of kids refusing food that was given to them in rude and hurtful ways. People and relationships are more important than food, so I would just let the food rules apply at home and be lenient when they are at the grandparents. :) (I have the same situation and this has worked well for us. Interestingly, both my parents and my in-laws are slowly but surely coming around to real foods without me saying anything.)

    3. In my opinion, it is all about honesty. If you are true to yourself, and kindly tell them what you desire your child to eat, and GIVE THEM A LIST OF OPTIONAL FOOD, they will respect that!

      In my opinion, if someone that had a child with a gleuten allergy had me babysit them, I wouldn’t be upset that they couldn’t eat white bread. Same difference…even if I thought someone was weird for their requests, I would still honor what they asked of me (after all they are entrusting their most precious child in my care!)

      If you just let them know why it is so important to you, and how it has made a change for the better for you as a family…they will respect it, and honor your request! :)

    4. I would start with not telling them you don’t want their “crap”. That just makes people need to prove their food is perfectly fine. I’m with Poorganic and believe that the relationship is more important than some poor food choices and perhaps they’ll warm to it as they realize how proud they can be of kids who choose fruit over candy.

    5. I have this same problem although we mostly let it go because we were only seeing the grandparents 2x per year. Now we are moving closer and I feel I have to bring it up because their choices are SO bad, SO often. Their idea of treating the kids is a trip to McDonalds followed by a packaged cupcake. Their idea of a healthy snack is Yoplait yogurt. They are wonderful loving grandparents in every other way but they also have a TON of health problems so I really don’t want my kids following in their footsteps when it comes to food. I am really worried about bringing this up and I feel it has to come from my husband bc it’s his parents. I know they are likely to get VERY defensive. My other strategy will be to host them at our house so that the food is up to me.

  41. Martha Hughes

    I had to smile when I saw your post today. My husband, trying to do something sweet for me, brought home some veggie sticks last night. I have been trying to go with whole foods and so these are not something I’m eating. But he saw the word veggie and thought good for you. Thanks for your blog!

  42. I knew about the yogurt, suspected about the veggie straws, but was totally caught unawares on the multigrain crackers. Another one for the ‘no’ list. I did manage to get my kid to eat their stoneground crackers, which are possibly better, and I know he likes their woven wheats. Will read that ingredient list next time.

    Wait, change that–I knew about the aspartame in the yogurt, but not the HFCS. That is so ridiculous.

    1. Also if no one has picked it up I recommend In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. Just like this great site discusses, you and your families live better by eating Real Foods (limit boxed/bagged) and snacks for little ones don’t need to be crackers with extras and gluten or non-gluten. Give them real Fruits and Veggies, steam them if raw is to hard to chew (I even gave my little ones frozen asaragus while teething!). And make smoothie from Real Fruits and Veggies too not premade mixes. It takes a bit of will power to get over that hump in your mind to not just grab for the easy box or bag but once you get the real taste on your palatte, it won’t let you go back to those imitation foods anymore.

  43. I really liked this post. I can’t tell you how inspired I am by your blog (which I just found about a month ago). We are already focusing more on whole foods, less sugar, etc. I also liked the tone of this post as well. It’s something I could share with friends on FB without anyone saying it’s “talking down to them”. Great job!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Thanks for sharing…I care about reader feedback and take it into consideration whenever possible!

  44. I fell nto the veggie straw trap. I bought them and then as I was stuffing my face I was reading the ingredients. So disappointing! I really liked them but don’t buy them anymore. It is basically a potato chip. I always though yogurt was good for you but once I started reading the labels. YIKES so much sugar in them. I am going to try your sauce and start flavoring my own. Love the info you provide here.

  45. Does anyone know if Snapea Crisps by Calbee are a better alternative to veggie straws, they are baked?

  46. It is tricky when reading product labels. You basically need a dictionary, thesarus and an encyclopedia just to navigate the grocery store isles. I really like my Snackhealthy products especially the crispy fruit, yum, because there are very few ingredients without all the additives and preservatives.

    1. You’re absolutely right! I found a little pocket-sized book called “Food Additives: A Shoppers Guide to What’s Safe & What’s Not” by Christine Farlow. I don’t have time to look up everything while in the store, but if a product looks good except for a couple of ingredients, I can check them out before I decide to purchase the product.

  47. I’d also like to point out the modified corn starch and the monocalcium phosphate in the Trader Joe’s crackers. First, since the crackers do not appear to be organic, the corn starch likely comes from GMO corn. Secondly, monocalcium phosphate is a “hidden” name for MSG.

    1. Lana: Per Trader Joe’s website, all of its “private label products are sourced from non-genetically modified ingredients”. I don’t see in my research that monocalcium phosphate is = to MSG, but I may have missed something. I don’t disagree that some TJ’s products could have fewer ingredients, but in a pinch, I’d choose them over a commercial brand at a regular supermarket.

    2. Yes, all Trader Joe’s brand stuff is non-GMO and contains no MSG.
      I find myself buying more and more staple items (white whole wheat flour, organic butter, etc.) from Trader Joe’s because I don’t have to worry about what’s in them.

      1. Not true. There is MSG in a lot of their products. Check out how many of their foods list “natural flavors” as an ingredient. That’s MSG.

      2. “Natural flavors” can mean a host of things – a lot of them not good – but not just limited to MSG.

    3. 100 Days of Real Food

      Lana – I think Trader Joe’s has a store policy against GMOs, but I am not certain.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      It would all depend on the ingredients, but I would venture to say that other brands are similar to the ones detailed here.

  48. I make my kids smoothies nearly everyday. Last week I bought a frozen fruit mixture from Dole. Today I realized the ingredients peaches, pineapple, mango, strawberries and natural flavour. natural flavour? Does that mean they ADD flavour to the fruit?! In any case I’ll be buying other brands and looking at labels even more closely! It did say 100% fruit. Frozen is the only option where I live for most of the year :(.

    1. I’ve been able to find frozen, organic fruit with no sugar or any other additives at Kroger, Target, and Central Market. You just have to read carefully, lots of them add sugar. Uck!

    2. I buy the frozen fruit bags from Target and they don’t have extra stuff added. Just fruit. It’s a red and white bag. They also have the store brand at Wal-Mart. But you have to be careful because Wal-Mart has some that are fruit and syrup.

    3. 100 Days of Real Food

      Yes, something vague like “natural flavors” is definitely questionable…even high-fructose corn syrup is technically “natural” so you never know what they could be talking about. Also FYI – you could freeze your own fruit when it’s in season.

      1. Quick question about freezing fruit. Do you need to put anything in the fruit? Water? Or just slice the fruit and freeze? Any suggestions or tips would be much appreciated. Thanks!

      2. 100 Days of Real Food

        It depends on what type of fruit you are trying to freeze, but berries can usually just go right in the freezer.

    4. I heard something on the radio last week regarding where “natural flavor” vanilla can come from (like the kind used in the “natural” coffee creamers and ice cream). I was so shocked I looked it up, thinking it couldn’t be true, but several different sources have confirmed it. Yes, they’re technically “natural,” I guess, because they come from animals, but I was absolutely appalled at some of the sources. Why can’t they just use REAL vanilla and call it a day? Now I’m definitely skeptical of all natural flavors…if it’s natural, then just tell me where you got it. And if it’s natural, why is it a “flavor” at all?

  49. I agree that any time something is “light” or “low-fat” means that it is ultra processed with more fake ingredients added. Light yogurt is one of the worst too. I do sometimes buy veggie straws, but probably too much. We need to avoid those too I guess.

  50. So, to continue along the non-fat arena, is it best to drink whole, organic milk vs non-fat, organic milk? There go my WW points. Also, I like espresso mochas and have been making my own chocolate syrup/sauce using a Saveur recipe. I use 30 grams of sauce per espresso, but my OCD tendency worries about the butter, sugar and 1/2 n 1/2 in the recipe. I tell myself to get over it, but the alternative recipes I’ve tried are yucky. Any ideas?

    1. Lisa posted a chocolate sauce recipe/concept that I use to make hot chocolate…cocoa powder and real maple syrup. It’s REALLY yummy and easy to make!

    2. It does depend on how your nonfat, organic milk is made. I get mine from Trader Joe’s and asked if they add back some milk solids after removing the cream, and they said they did not. I’m continuing to drink nonfat, and giving my kid the 2% organic.

    3. Dara- Don’t be afraid of fat! I would definitely drink whole fat milk versus the non-fat. We need fat. Our brains are 65% fat and they thrive on it to function and feel happy. And I wouldn’t worry about the butter either, especially if you get a nice grass-fed butter like Kerrygold. Its a great way to get some vitamin A,D and K in your diet and again, your brain will love it!

      Check out Nancydeville.com. She is a big advocae of fat and eats a pund a week. She looks amazing at 61. Also, watch the movie “Fat Head.” We’ve been lied to as far the saturated fat thing goes and the movie will explain it to you. Basically, saturated fat became the enemy about the same time Crisco and margarine came on the market. Ironic, huh?

    4. I lost all my weight switching to real food and real fat. Whole fat. Healthy fats. And I rudeced my grain intake to one serving a day. Way more veggies, force myself to eat fruits at least once a day (i’m weird)and healthy proteins.

    5. Dara I’m on WW also. I cut out processed foods when I started WW. I use full fat dairy. I’ve lost 60 pounds since November. The key is eating full fat dairy in moderation.

    6. 100 Days of Real Food

      Dara – I know you’ve gotten a few different answers here, but YES it is definitely best to drink whole organic (preferably non-homogenized from grass-fed cows) milk. Check out this post for more detail: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/04/15/mini-pledge-week-6-no-low-fat-lite-or-nonfat-food-products/ Also, I love mochas too and this is how I make mine: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/03/04/recipe-maple-mocha/ I hope that helps!

    7. Dara- I was up to 185 lbs this January and knew I had to do something. Went on ww points plus- lost 10 lbs over 2 months (and ended up gaining that back!) and realized I was still not eating healthy! (Chik-fil-a, diet sodas, just in smaller amounts!) When I started exercising and switched to real food by following Lisa’s blog and getting a few recipes/tips & tricks from foodrenegade.com , I have lost 35 lbs since the end of March. Not even 2 months! This is on full-fat dairy (probably more than I should drink)no carb cutting and no reduced fat anything. I make a nutritious meal and eat a good sized portion. Now that I’ve changed my eating habits I feel like I could never go back- I wish you luck on your weight loss journey and hope that it becomes a nutrition journey as well!

      P.S. To whoever mentioned it- I also eat Kerrygold butter and it is amazing!

  51. I JUST bought those veggie sticks. I read the ingredients and it looked fishy to me but I thought there were better than the regular junk. Guess not. Thanks for the info!

  52. My guess is the spinach, tomato and beet powders in the veggie straws are only for coloring, and there are no nutritional benefits from those otherwise healthy foods in the final product.

    Interestingly, just this morning I checked the ingredients list of the 365 whole shredded wheat crackers (Whole Foods’ store brand version of Triscuits) and was happy to see the list is very short.

    Thanks for another great post!

  53. (I posted this on Facebook also) Homemade baked kale chips are a wonderful alternative to the “veggie” sticks. My kids LOVE them and ask me to make them!

    1. Or if you have a dehydrator, you can do crunchy kale chips that are raw (and don’t need to be prepped with any oils. A dehydrator is awesome for making all sorts of crunchy snacks, like banana chips and carrot stick chips. Then flavor with whatever spices you want, like cumin and ginger or cayenne or curry powder.

      1. when I use my dehydrator, everything’s (Fruit/veggies) chewy. The bananas and apples and such. I read that banana chips from the store are crunchy because they are fried! How do you get yours crunchy?

        Nuts are obviously crunchy though.

      2. I agree with Jennifer. I was so shocked when my dehydrator put out soft chewy dried fruit no matter how long I dried. So all the stuff you buy in the store is fried! Yikes! Didn’t know that! I’d like to know how you get yours crunchy too with the dehydrator.

  54. I’m just curious if you know of a better option for veggie straws that has a similar texture. My one-year-old can’t really handle raw veggies or pretzels yet, but he loves veggie straws, and I think part of it is the crunchiness.

    1. Target sells freeze dried fruit (bananas. strawberries, mango, and apple) that have nothing but the fruit in the ingredient list. I have a 3 year old and a 20 month old and they have both been eating them for a long time. They are crunchy, but also kind of melt away in your mouth. My 3 year old likes the bananas way better then fresh ones.

    2. In the organic section of our grocery store, they have dried snap peas. Tasty- but also have oil (corn oil, I think) as the second ingredient. But if I’m not mistaken, they are whole snap peas, not made from a powder or anything :) Hope that helps!!

    3. 100 Days of Real Food

      Homemade kale chips might be good…and like some of the others said freeze dried fruits which sort of melt in your mouth.

    4. I haven’t looked at the ingredients on rice cakes yet, but would that be an option for your child? They offer the crunchy/melts to mush combo.

    5. We found sweet potato chips at the store with only 3 ingredients: sweet potatoes, salt and oil. That might be an option (or you can make them homemade).