As a health coach and real food educator, I often help people learn one of the most important real food skills: reading ingredient labels to determine what is really in their food. Many times, people are shocked to discover that a food they thought was healthy is chock full of chemicals, artificial colors and other unsavory ingredients.
I thought our readers might enjoy a post every now and again where I decode some labels and really get down to the bottom of what is in our food! I want to do a few posts here and there on the importance of reading labels and asking restaurants what products they are using.
Reading ingredient labels is the number one thing, I believe, you can start to do to get more Real Food into your home.
The example I have for today is not the usual home kitchen products I will decode in the future, but is a product has been bugging me for quite awhile. I finally got around to writing about it!
This product is not something that we have in our home kitchens, usually, as it is used in commercial applications. But it is still a good example of the importance of reading ingredient labels. It is also a perfect example of why it is important to ask what products are being used at restaurants and schools.
This product is absolutely disgusting and
could be is being used in so many dishes, even in higher end restaurants, and you would never know.
The product is a lovely ‘flavored vegetable oil' called Whirl. Essentially, it would be a sub for a garlic butter or garlic oil. I spotted the package and new immediately that I didn't need many of my ‘Food Detective' skills to know that this was an entirely fake food. But, I had to read the labels.
I turned it over and my suspicion was confirmed: FAKE FOOD! Let me break it down for you.
Partially hydrogenated soybean oil
-Most likely from GMO soybeans and this product contans 2 grams of trans fat per serving. TRANS FAT! The CDC has recommended that people keep their trans fat servings as low as possible. Essentially, there is no safe level of trans fat. I definitely do not want to eat this knowingly and I surely wouldn't want it anywhere near my daughter.
Natural and artificial garlic flavor
-What is ‘artificial' garlic flavor? Natural garlic flavor is garlic, right? Nope.
-Most likely GMO. Used as an emulsifier. Not the worst ingredient, but usually a sign of a highly processed food.
Artificial and natural butter flavor
-What is ‘artificial' butter flavor? And think natural butter flavor is butter? Think again!
Vitamin A Palmitate
-A synthetic form of Vitamin A. There are warnings agains consuming synthetic vitamins by some groups such as the Organic Consumer Group.
Hydrolyzed soy protein
-Most likely GMO and can be a hidden source of MSG
Autolyzed yeast extract
-Can be a hidden source of MSG Then the kicker…
The allergy disclaimer:
“Contains Barley, Soy, Milk and Egg components”.
The reason I say it was the ‘kicker' is this product is served in schools and restaurants to a variety of people with food allergies. And most people don't even know it is being used!
Let's look at the allergens:
Soy: this product is full of soy. Check.
Milk: “Butter” flavor? Check
Barley: Autolyzed Yeast Extract? Check.
and Egg? Not sure. Where is the egg?
So…my friend and I called the company. It took awhile to be transferred to the right person but we found out that the natural and artificial flavorings contained egg.
Now, why is this a big deal? Because you may be getting garlic bread which you think would only have wheat, gluten and dairy as possible allergens. You may be having stir fried garlic broccoli in which you think you are getting dairy with a butter sauce or possible soy if soybean oil is used. EGG???
Would you ever think that a dish like sauteed broccoli or garlic bread would have egg? And, I know people with egg allergies who have eaten this product before.
People with gluten, wheat, dairy, soy and egg allergies could be getting this ‘food' product often, when they eat out at restaurants or at school, completely unaware that, besides being a completely ‘fake food' product, it is chock full of common allergens.
What can you do?
- Read labels for all the products you have in your home.
- Ask questions at restaurants and at your child's school.
- Demand transparency of ingredients and don't just assume because it is a ‘healthy' side dish of broccoli that the oils and flavorings used on the broccoli are ‘healthy'.
- Eat food your great grandmother would recognize. I think we can all agree our great grannies would scoff at some ‘fake garlic flavored spread'. Why not just use butter? Or olive oil? Real garlic or garlic salt?
This type of thing seriously drives me bananas and is why I am on a mission to educate people so they can make the best choices for their families.
Knowledge is power.
If you have the knowledge than you can choose to eat this type of food or not. If you don't have the knowledge, you can never make the choice.
I will be honest, my daughter (and my husband and I) occasionally eat ‘fake' food. We are not zealots about real food and do the best we can. However, I like being able to have the choice to choose what I eat.
What makes me mad about a product like this is that it is hidden. This isn't like a brightly colored birthday cake or a kids meal, which are obviously full of fake ingredients. This is a hidden product that can be in so much food in our schools and our restaurants.
Do you have any products you want me to decode for you? Let us know in the comments!!