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It’s April and already it feels like August here in Florida which means the beach is the perfect place to spend a Saturday.That is exactly what a friend and I did this past Saturday.
While at the beach, a little girl, who’s mom was busy playing in a volleyball match, decided to “adopt” us. We fed her part of the lunches we had packed and she enjoyed playing with our kids. The mom later came over and thanked us for adopting her daughter for the day. After a good chat with the mom, the topic of food came up, she told us that her daughter eats very little of the foods she tries to feed her, however, she recently found a multi-grain organic cookie from Costco which she loves. She went on to tell us how excited she was to find this miracle cookie because it was multi-grain and organic and therefore extremely healthy!
Now, let me stop here!
You may be thinking at this point, because, you have read (here) how we choose to eat REAL, traditional food that I am going to go off on some kind of “holier than thou” rant about this mom feeding her child a packaged cookie.
I promise you I am not!
Talking to this mom, reminded me of this journey of real food that our family has been on and how so many times throughout our journey I have been led to believe by big companies that certain foods are healthy. Just like that mom, I have spent countless dollars on packaged foods with health claims in hopes of feeding my family nourishing foods.
Big Business food companies are wonderful…wonderful at marketing!
Food Companies spend millions of dollars and employ teams of highly qualified individuals to market their products. Listen to any news program, dinner conversation, or talk show and you will find that Americans are extremely concerned about being healthy! Food companies are well aware of this health craze. They are also aware that “health food” and “organics” are big money makers. Companies have created hundreds of products sold in grocery stores across this country, with amazing health claims. Products marketing high amounts of heart healthy fiber, a full serving of fruit and veggies, gluten-free, sugar free, probiotics…the health claims on store shelves are endless.
I have learned as a consumer that I must always be aware and question everything. Anytime you buy food that comes in a box or package and have an extended shelf life it’s important to do some major questioning!
So what are these products that appear healthy but are nothing more than just glorified junk food?
Photo Credit: Jean-Louis Batt/Getty Images
Health Food Imposters:
1. Multi-Grain and Wheat: Terms like multi-grain, wheat, and 7-grain are all the rage these days, however, as healthy as these may sound most items with these terms are simply just enriched white flour stripped of all its nutrients. Even if the front of a package touts amazing healthy benefits, turn over the package, read the ingredients, and you will find the first words are “bleached” or “unbleached enriched wheat flour”. Now drop the package and move on! If you continue to read, you will probably find most the ingredients after flour will require a doctorate in chemistry.
A Nourishing Option: For bread: make your own! I know it sounds daunting, but I promise, it’s not hard! You can find one of my favorite, easy bread recipes here. If you aren’t up to making your own bread, my favorite store-bought bread is a true sourdough from Berlin Natural Bakery. Farmer’s Markets and small bakeries can be great sources for real bread, made with real 100% whole grain(s), just be sure to ask about the ingredients. For crackers: Two of the cleanest brands of crackers I can find (other than making my own in my kitchen) are: Ak Mack Crackers and Mary’s Gone Crackers.
2. Granola Bars: You can find these cute little individually wrapped bars filled with all sorts of “healthy” goodies just about everywhere you go from health food stores to gas stations. While, most claim amazing superpowers, they are nothing more than high fructose corn syrup, lots of refined sugars, artificial and “natural” flavorings and food dyes, and enough chemicals to keep one while preserved for a few decades.
A Nourishing Option: I make granola bars each Sunday, it requires about 20 minutes of prep in the kitchen and the rest of the time your oven does the work. That’s less time than it would take me to load the kids in the car, go to the store, buy a box of granola bars, and make it home again! Plus when making them at home, there is an added bonus of allowing the kids to help with prepping their own snacks for the week! Here are a few of my favorite granola bar recipes…
Chocolate Chip Granola Bars by Weelicious (I use succanat, coconut oil in place of the brown sugar and canola oil)
3. Smoothies: Our family regularly enjoys smoothies so let me start out by saying that smoothies can be incredibly nourishing, when prepared in your own home. Most smoothies made by food chains and smoothie shops are packed full of refined sugars and chemical additives. Here is a list of ingredients from a McDonald’s McCafé Strawberry Banana Real Fruit Smoothie:
Strawberry Puree, Banana Puree, Water, Grape Juice Concentrate, Clarified Demineralized Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Sugar, Contains Less Than 1%: Natural (Plant Source) and Artificial Flavors, Cellulose Powder, Pear Juice Concentrate, Peach Juice Concentrate, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Pectin, Colored with Fruit and Vegetable Juice, Ascorbic Acid (Preservative) (Source: www.mcdonalds.com)
A Nourishing Option: Make your own smoothies! Smoothies are very simple to make and require very little time and mess! To save on time during our busy week, I will make a blender full of smoothie, divide it in 1/2 pint mason jars, and freeze. The night before a busy morning, I will take as many as needed out and let them defrost in the fridge overnight! That’s quicker and easier than going to Smoothie King or even waiting at the McDonald’s drive through. A typical smoothie in our house consists of frozen fruit, whole milk yogurt, liquid (such as apple, orange, water, coconut water, or raw whole milk), greens (kale, spinach, swiss chard, even lettuce will work), flax seed, and a couple bananas.
4. Vitamin Water (and other flavored waters): While pregnant with my first child, I drank Vitamin Water frequently… actually daily! I truly believed that there were healthy vitamins and I was reaping great health benefits! I bought into the marketing idea that somehow vitamin water was “better than water”. Here’s a list of ingredients from a bottle of Vitamin Water…
vapor distilled/deionized water, crystalline fructose, citric acid, vegetable juice (color), natural flavor, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), natural flavor, vitamin E acetate, magnesium lactate (elecrolyte), calcium lactate (electrolyte), zinc picolinate, monopotassium phosphate (electrolyte), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), cyanocobalamine (B12)
Did you notice, the 2nd ingredient was sugar! Basically, it’s one big bottle of GMO sugar water with a bunch of chemically synthesized vitamins, need I say more?
A Nourishing Option: Just drink water! But if you must have flavor in your water and would like a boost of natural vitamins, add a squeeze of orange or lemon slices or place berries in a water pitcher overnight and allow them to “steep” in the water. The added flavor as well as added vitamins will be real vs. the fakes you will find in Vitamin Water.
5. Veggie Burgers: Before I go into detail on this one, let me list the ingredients on a Original Vegan Boca Burger…
WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEAT GLUTEN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, DRIED ONIONS, YEAST EXTRACT, SESAME OIL, HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE. CONTAINS: SOY, WHEAT, SESAME (source: www.bocaburger.com)
Now, where are the veggies? I thought these were called Veggie Burgers?
A few years I proudly boasted of the fact that I consumed such veggie burgers, although I always thought they tasted more like rubber than a burger. The sad part is I bought them and served them regularly because I believed they were good for me! After all, they are called Veggie Burgers! How could they not be healthy? While I may not have been getting an ounce of veggies in my rubbery burger, I was consuming something very dangerous…soy…Genetically Modified Soy!
A Nourishing Option: You probably already know the answer, but I’ll share it again…make your own! Veggies burgers are another item that can prepped ahead of time and frozen so you won’t be tempted to stop and buy the box of rubbery chemical patties. And the best part is your veggie burger will actually contain…veggies!! Here are a few of my favorite recipes:
Garbanzo and Mushroom Burgers from Poor Girl Eats Well
Read part 2 of the series here