Did you read the label? Too bad. By
Been trying to watch the diet recently. Can’t eat all of our meals at The Urban Farmhouse, and as much as we like raiding the farmer’s markets and grabbing some backyard tomatoes, occasionally you have to improvise. We try to do a pretty good job of always looking for those “Virginia Grown” stickers, and we read the label, but sometimes you have to grab something off of the shelf.
Settled for a multi-grain bar. You’ve seen those commercials where the concerned nutritionist is slogging through the jungles of the Amazon looking for that just right cocoa plant? The ones where the nature-freak is trading anti-oxidant secrets with the natives? It was one of those bars. We picked up the little guy, and he was coming from a friend’s house with a great big freezer bag full of Froot Loops. You can imagine our reaction.
We chided him on his poor choice, and he said, “Your snack has chocolate, and that has sugar. Mine has sugar too. What’s the big deal.” Well, son, my sugar is different. We don’t like to be wrong about things like food, how hot is the sun, and what would happen if Iron Man fought a Transformer, so we went home and did some research.
The little guy’s high-fructose snack is made by Kellogg. Kellogg Cereals was started in 1906 by Will and John Kellogg in Battle Creek Michigan. John opened the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a wonderful place where people went to get healthy. John espoused the idea of a low-fat, low-protein diet that was rich in grains, fibers, and nuts. Sounds great, right? Among the therapeutic cures used were ice water baths, running in the snow, bathing under the brand new invention of the light bulb, and various unsavory methods of cleansing the colon. He also fed his “patients” bowls and bowls and bowls of cereal.
My healthy choice? Made by Kellogg. In addition to the healthy nuts and carefully harvested cocoa in my bar, there was also a heavy dose of soy. The soybeans used were grown from a genetically modified seed introduced by Monsanto, one that was bred to withstand the herbicide Roundup. You may not know that if you read the label. You can’t win, can you?
The little guy’s snack was chock-full of the corn syrup, a ton of fats, lots of sugars, and goodness knows what kinds of artificial colors and flavorings. They also ran into a little problem a few years ago with smelly cereal. It seems that they had used too much 2-methylnaphthalene, a chemical used during the packaging process. They also use that chemical for making mothballs and those little blocks that turn your toilet water blue. Yummy.
The whole episode brought some increased scrutiny of the other items in our diet. We always try to look for the good things, but how reliable was the label?
We sometimes stop by one of those sandwich franchises to grab a snack late at night. It seems to be a popular spot with Olympians and that one guy lost like 700 pounds by eating nothing but turkey for a year. We would choose fresh veggies, a little vinegar, and the 9-grain wheat bread. It does, in fact, contain nine very distinct grains, but most of them combined make up less than 2% of the actual bread. And that healthy wheat color? Ammonium sulfate and caramel color. Foiled again.
It seems that much of what we take for granted as being good, healthy, and even organic, is not so much. Reading the label is only part of the game. When pressed about the GMO soy in our snack bar, the president of the company said, “The FDA has chosen not to regulate the term ‘natural.’” Kind of like not believing in climate change means that it doesn’t exist. “I can’t hear you. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.”
A product that offered a tasty and delicious strawberry snack advertised that it was made with real fruit. At one point it was real fruit, but not strawberry. There was, in fact, no strawberry harmed during the production of said product, but a great deal of pear extract was.
An “all natural” tomato product lent the impression of hands squashing fresh, red tomatoes. It was actually a reconstituted tomato paste strung out on a high dosage of sodium and citric acid.
We tried some veggie crisps in lieu of potato chips. They offered a blend of wonderful spinach, tomato, and garlic. Potassium chloride actually outweighed spinach by portion. The benefits of the vitamins and minerals that one would normally associate with eating spinach and tomatoes were sadly absent from the packaging.
So we do our best to read the label. We really do. And we go further than most by doing some background research on who and what goes into a product. We look for words like “organic, natural, no artificial flavor” and all of those other good things, and then we try to balance those words with the list of actual ingredients. But sometimes that isn’t even enough.
So we head back to The Urban Farmhouse for a grilled cheese sandwich. Pure campagne loaf, smoked gouda, and fresh Hanover tomatoes. At least we know where that stuff came from.