Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shopping for labels....

I think two of the worst phrases to hit the food industry are "made with whole grain" and "all-natural". You might think I'm crazy; whole grains and natural are good, right? Of course they are!!! But what you may not realize is, anyone can slap "made with whole grain" on a package (even if it's not the first, or second, or third ingredient), and "all-natural" just means the ingredients came from nature. Neither phrase makes something inherently "healthy". You have to be so careful and actually look at labels, because you can unwittingly pick something up, assume it's healthy, and toss it in the cart.

For example, here is a label from a chocolate brownie muffin from the folks at Aunt Millie. It is "made with whole grain". Sorry, it's a bit fuzzy.

Major concerns? Well, for one, the first ingredient isn't flour, it's sugar. That can't be good. Second, 220 calories for a snack? A snack with 8.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of sugar? What a waste of a snack! It's cut off, but it's labeled as 5 Weight Watchers points. I don't track points, but my mom does. And I'm pretty sure 5 isn't good when snacking on a muffin. This is a dessert, not a "snack".

Moving on to another choice, not "made with whole grain":

Sure, these Hostess mini-cupcakes aren't whole grain. And the first ingredient is *still* sugar. But at least we've a) knocked it down to 100 calories, b) knocked it down to 3 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of saturated fat, c) gone down to 10 grams of sugar, and d) there are 5 grams of fiber in that package! If I were a sugar eating girl, I'd certainly take all this over all that.

Of course, your best bet is probably to make your own damn cupcakes and know exactly what is going into them. Because I can safely say, 9/10 of what you find on any grocery shelf is going to be full of icky preservatives and weird things you can't pronounce. But I know not everyone has time for that, and if you're going to do convenience, I'd like you to be informed!

Another good example is yogurt. Let's look at Greek yogurt. Oikos makes a "chocolate on the bottom" Greek yogurt. Sounds tasty. 110 calories, 16 grams of sugar. And call it what you want, "organic sugar" is still just SUGAR. I buy Stonyfield Oikos nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Yeah, I know, plain, yuck yuck yuck. But 90 calories and 7 grams of just plain dairy sugar. And it has 20% of your daily calcium, vs 10% in the Oikos chocolate one. And I'm sorry, you can do whatever to plain yogurt. It's a blank canvas! Add fruit. Put it in a smoothie. Add protein powder. Swirl in some natural fruit preserves. Or honey. You can pretty much do anything you want with it.

My point is, you have to be careful in the supermarket. Unless you are holding an organic apple or some such thing, chances are good that whatever "all-natural" thing you are holding has been processed in some weird way. Don't be tricked by the marketing departments that are getting trashed by the health nuts. Once word got out that people wanted their food stripped down, they had to re-strategize how best to get consumers to continue to buy their products. Hence the words "all-natural", "made with whole-grain", and "25% less sugar" were born. I'm done ranting, just... read your labels, people.

until later....

"Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn't even the star of his own Halloween special." ~Chris Rock


  1. Dannon now sells Greek yogurt. The plain is 80 calories, 0g of fat, 15g of protein, 6g of sugar (from lactose) and 99 cents. It also lists one ingredient, non-fat milk. Add some fresh fruit and a little vanilla extract, who's missing sugared yogurt?

  2. I noticed that at the store today! Have you tried it? Just wondering if it's as good as Fage, I just love that stuff.