Watching TV the other night with my husband and kids, I was astonished by the number and scope of food related commercials. Whether for Coca Cola or Morningstar Farms Veggie Foods, it was truly mind boggling!
So, as we were watching this bright and shiny commercial about good ole Morningstar my husband turned to me and said, “Those are healthy, right?” I offered this, “Morningstar is a better alternative for some, but their products are highly processed veggie foods and there are much better options on the market like the Sunshine Burger.” To which my son Jack chimed in, “Dad, seriously! If it is advertised on TV, it’s not something you want to buy.” I am glad Jack said it!
And then I just couldn’t help myself, “Did you know Morningstar is a division of the Kellogg Company, the people who bring you Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Pop Tarts?” Since he didn’t give me that “OK, I have had enough look”, I continued. “I appreciate that these companies are trying to get healthy, but the whole idea of Big Food buying into better brands (or even creating their own) while still selling the same old crap is somewhat disingenuous (but perhaps better than nothing?)”
My husband is like most Americans. Married to me or not, he is a product of his upbringing and the food industry’s target marketing. In fact, just the other day we were in Whole Foods and he picked up the organic version of Cocoa Crispies and attempted to put it in the cart. I took one look at the box, then him and just shook my head. “What, he said. It’s organic!” I responded with, “Just cause it’s organic and at Whole Foods DOES NOT mean that it is healthy.” In fact, no cereal is healthy except oatmeal or other truly whole grain cereal; museli; and homemade granola. I consider cereals a “delivery system” with a little added milk (or milk alternative) for other nutritious foods like fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. So, don’t fool yourself no matter what the packaging tells you.
What I am trying to say is sadly you can’t judge a book by its cover. In other words, what you see on those colorful, fun and filled with information “covers” more often than not does not tell the truth about what is inside the “book”. In fact, the covers can be downright confusing with sensationalized claims like Rice Crispies can help “boost immunity”. Ya think? Or that soft, squishy bread that you find next to Thomas’ English Muffins is whole grain—folks, the only place you will find “whole grain” bread is in the freezer section but even then, it is not truly whole grain cause it’s been processed into a bread.
So, here’s a little guidance:
- Don’t choose your foods based solely on the claims made in TV commercials; take Jack’s advice
- If a product is loaded with too many claims, think twice about buying cause they are probably bordering on false
- Focus on ingredient lists as they tell the story of your food (hopefully); if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, pass on the product
- Ideally, buy fresh whole foods as navigating processed foods is a nightmare and despite ingredient lists, you won’t always know the true story of your food (unless you know the company and feel confident in their products)
Some of my processed food favorites (and staples) are: