Eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and yogurt, say health experts. So food companies create processed foods that seem to fit the bill. In the supermarket, every day is April 1st.
Thin on nuts
“Made with real almonds,” boasts the box of Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins Hint of Sea Salt crackers.
“Made with” is label-speak for “made with very little.”
See that skinny, squished type on the bottom right of the box? “Rice cracker snacks with almonds,” it says. Translation: You’re getting mostly (white) rice flour.
In fact, judging by the 2½ grams of fat, a 19-cracker serving contains about four almonds, max. “We love our almonds so much we baked them into crispy crackers with irresistible flavors,” says the back of the box.
Who wouldn’t love an ingredient that makes cheap rice flour look like a health food?
Tip: Seeking a gluten-free or low-carb cracker made of nuts or seeds, not flour? Try Flackers Organic Flax Seed Crackers.
Summer sugar bliss
Expecting berry juice in Tropicana Summer Berry Bliss? And why not? After all, the company made its name selling orange juice.
Maybe Tropicana is hoping that you won’t notice the teensy pale “DRINK WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS” below “Bliss” on the front of the bottle or the “15% juice” above the Nutrition Facts on the back.
And even that juice has more apple juice concentrate, apple purée, natural flavors, grape juice concentrate, and citric acid than blackberry or blueberry juice concentrates. In fact, each 90-calorie cup has 4 teaspoons of added sugar—a third of a day’s worth.
But why be upfront about all that? For Tropicana, ignorance is bliss.
“Vitamin A has been shown to help support eye health,” says Babybel Plus+ Vitamins A & B12 cheese, which refers label readers to a National Institutes of Health webpage.
Go there, and you’ll see this: “Most people in the United States get enough vitamin A from the foods they eat, and vitamin A deficiency is rare.”
Oh, so we don’t need cheese with extra vitamin A.
Experts do advise people over 50 to get some B-12 from a vitamin or fortified food, because they may produce too little stomach acid to absorb foods’ naturally occurring B-12. But Babybel only adds enough to reach 15 percent of a day’s worth. Take a multivitamin instead.
And as for Babybel’s claim that B-12 “has been shown to support the body in converting food into energy,” don’t count on extra doses to help you burn more calories or feel more energetic.
So the A & B-12 are a plus…but only for Babybel’s sales.
Late July Organic Multigrain Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips are “made with a blend of grains & seeds,” says the label.
“Multigrain” only means “more than one grain,” so it’s an easy way to dress up corn chips. These are mostly whole-grain corn plus some brown rice.
What about those “seeds”? You get less than ¼ teaspoon of chia in a nine-chip serving, we estimate.
And the chips have more corn and oil than sweet potato. In fact, it looks like a serving has no more than half a tablespoon or so of sweet potato.
Late July is just following the tried-and-true playbook: Add a smidgen of vegetables to make mostly-grain-or-potato chips look like a health food.
Who cares if they compete with real veggie snacks like baby carrots, cukes, bell peppers, and grape tomatoes?
Spot the squash
How much strawberry and squash do you get in a Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Strawberry & Squash Breakfast Bar that’s “made with REAL fruit & veggie”?
The bars’ filling has more invert sugar, vegetable glycerin, corn syrup, and sugar than strawberry purée concentrate or—there it is!—butternut squash purée.
See that “NATURALLY FLAVORED WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS” below “Strawberry & Squash”? “Flavored” is often a clue that a food has little (or none) of the ingredient.
So why call them Strawberry & Squash? Maybe Sugar & Corn Syrup Breakfast Bars wouldn’t sell as well.
“Great alternative to potato tots & fries,” say Green Giant Cauliflower Veggie Tots, which have “NO POTATO” and are “filled with cauliflower.”
Sounds like Green Giant slashed the starchy carbs and calories in tater tots by switching to cauliflower.
Turns out, the Veggie Tots have as many carbs and calories as ordinary Ore-Ida Golden Tater Tots. They just come from refined flour and cornstarch instead of potato.
Want to really replace refined carbs with cauliflower? Try riced cauliflower from Green Giant or Birds Eye. To replace potatoes, steam and mash cauliflower florets.
Fresh out of guavas
What fruits do you get in Del Monte Fruit Refreshers Red Grapefruit in Guava FLAVORED SLIGHTLY SWEETENED Fruit Water?
Grapefruit? Yep. Guava? Nope.
Never mind those guavas on the label. Looks like the only guava in Guava Fruit Water comes from “natural flavor.” Sigh.
And the drink’s vibrant pink hue comes from red grapefruit …with a boost from carmine (red coloring from insects). Mmm.
It’s not all Greek to us
“The days of sour, tangy yogurt are over!” says The Greek Gods Greek Style Yogurt.
Greek yogurt that’s not tangy? There’s a surprise.
Here’s another: A 4 oz. tub of the Strawberry with Honey has only 5 grams of protein. The same amount of a Greek yogurt from Fage or Chobani has at least 50 percent more.
“Why do other brands of Greek yogurt have a higher protein content than Greek Gods Greek Style Yogurt?” asks The Gods’ “FAQ” webpage.
“Our yogurt is ‘Greek Style’ and reminiscent of the classic flavors used in Greece. Because Greek Gods yogurt is made in the traditional cup-set or pot-set method, we never strain our yogurt like the other Greek yogurts you’ll find in stores.”
Of course, straining is what makes real Greek yogurt thicker and gives it more protein. “Greek Style” yogurt? That’s whatever the marketing department wants you to believe.
Sugar ‘n oil snacks
Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Blueberry-Acai Snacks are an April Fools twofer.
Fool No. 1: Fruit. “Fruit is our 1st Ingredient!” says the box. True, but each pouch has 10 grams of added sugar and only 2 grams of naturally occurring (fruit or milk) sugar.
That’s because the second and third ingredients are sugar and corn syrup. (Would sugar have been the “1st Ingredient!” if Welch’s had used only one kind? Maybe.)
What’s more, the snacks’ “fruit center” is a blend of purées—not intact fruit—with more grape and pear than blueberry or acai.
“Not intended to replace fresh fruit in the diet,” says the small print on the side. Got that right.
Fool No. 2: Yogurt. Welch’s “yogurt coating” has more sugar and palm kernel oil than any dairy ingredients (whey powder, nonfat milk powder, yogurt powder). Then there’s the titanium dioxide, which is probably added to help whiten the “yogurt.” So the snacks apparently aren’t intended to replace yogurt either.
Just a health halo to sell gussied-up gummies.