06 July 2008

Diet and "Health" Foods with HFCS (Part 1)

I look at labels a lot when I am in the supermarket, and I noticed that even a lot of "diet" food comes loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup (along with a lot of other suspiciously and non-delicious sounding ingredients.)

On of the funniest is Wishbone's Salad Spritzers. It is salad dressing that you spray on your salad, ostensibly so that you get the bare minimum of dressing. A description: "The classic Caesar in a rich vinaigrette dressing made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cheddar and Romano cheeses, spices and a touch of lemon juice. Spritz your salad just the right amount. Any way you like it, youll have a perfect salad every time. Plus, it has just 2 calories per spray!" 

HFCS is the 3rd ingredient, after water and soybean oil. The flavors mentioned in the description are considerably farther down (lemon juice being the last.) I would think that if you sprayed water, lemon, olive oil, and some sort of really nice vinegar, you would probably end up with about 2 calories per spray and probably a lot more flavor (I don't see how romano cheese you can spray through a small mister can possibly bear any resemblance to actual cheese.)

Even diet 'food' systems like Nutrisystem have HFCS. A survey of all the NutriSystem food I could find online with HFCS include:   NutriFrosted Crunch Cereal, NutriFlakes Cereal- 40% bran flakes (4th ingredient, AFTER sugar! Sounds like a good way to start your diet!),  Chocolate Chip Granola Bar,  Cranberry Orange Pastry, Chocolate Caramel Dessert Bar

and some main meal items as well:

Chicken Salad (since the relish has it. More on relish later), Mashed Potatoes with Meatloaf and Tomato Sauce and Teriyaki Sauce, Rice, Beef, and Vegetables.

(As an aside, you would be hard-pressed to find a NutriSystem savory lunch dish that *isn't* flavored with anchovies and/or sardines.)

NutriSystem at least gets points for fully disclosing their ingredients on-line which is more than can be said for Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, as far as I can tell. What are they hiding? Weight Watchers has already come under fire for ingredients. It would be interesting to photograph and then post some of their labeling so we can see what is in this 'food'.

Why is it that lots of non-dessert items have these sweeteners? I think this is part of the problem of processed food. We expect it to be a little sweet and to give us a little lift. And the processors need it possibly as a preservative? When was the last time you added a sweetener (sugar, corn syrup, concentrated apple juice, sucralose, etc.) to your beef stew or steak?  And yet, in processed foods, the sweeteners are all over the place. Even in things we expect to be more salty than sweet.

I am not much of a dieter, but for those who are, when you really want something to be sweet, what's the best thing to do? Should these things have other artificial sweeteners in them instead to reduce calories and make them more low-calorie? I personally don't think so. I think that if we 1) eat more real, unprocessed foods 2) get our sweetness from natural sugars, and 3) stop expecting savory foods to also be sweet (and, actually, to stop expecting sweet foods to be a little salty, but that is a post for a different time) we would all be less fat.

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