Your strawberry-loving kids had Quaker Strawberries and Cream oatmeal for breakfast, with Hershey’s Strawberry milk. Strawberry Fruit Gushers for dessert for lunch, and Straw-Banana-Rama Double Crush Cup Yogurt for an after-school snack. At practice, they drank Kiwi-Strawberry Vitaminwater, and then had Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups after dinner.
So how many strawberries did they eat, for goodness sake? EXACTLY NONE.
Confused? Read on, and follow the links to credible sources for ingredients, if you want to check for yourself (and you should)!
- Quaker Strawberries and Cream Instant Oatmeal contains no strawberries, no cream, and 12 times the sugar of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats.
- Hershey’s Strawberry syrup contains no strawberries; it is almost entirely corn syrup of various types. And, apparently, something pink.
- Betty Crocker “Strawberry Splash Fruit Gushers” say they’re made with real fruit, but the only thing close to fruit is pear concentrate (which is essentially sugar) plus some red dye for “strawberry” color.
- Dannon Danimals Straw-Banana-Rama Double Crush Cup Yogurt – Though there are monkeys on the front grabbing at fruit, they’re not going to find any here: there are no strawberries or bananas listed in the ingredient lists. There are some fruit and vegetable juices in the product as colors. The company defends this in a public statement: “Many kids prefer yogurt without fruit pieces, and we show fruit on the label so people can clearly identify the flavor they are buying.” Ummmm … right.
- Glacéau Vitaminwater, Kiwi-Strawberry flavor: There are no strawberries or kiwis in this water.
- Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups, Strawberry: A lot of different corn syrups and oils. No strawberries.
I’m picking on strawberries, but this is by no means limited to them.
Crystal Light’s “Natural Lemonade” mix doesn’t even contain a single drop of lemon or lemonade (though it does include under 2% of “lemon juice solids, meaning solids extracted from lemons and then turned into a powder)! Please tell me what’s “Natural” about that?
Kraft sells a “guacamole dip” that contains less than 2% avocados.
Knorr “Pasta Sides” Chicken Broccoli Fettuccini has more corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, and salt than there is Chicken or Broccoli.
These food marketers are counting on your being too busy (and trusting) to worry with reading the label. They think that because they add fruit flavors or colors, you’ll be duped into buying their products and feeding them to your families. And unfortunately, for many of us, they’re right.
If a blouse were marked as “silk” but then you found out later that it was imitation silk, you’d return it. If you stopped for your morning “coffee” but then later learned it was made of a colored water that was flavored to taste like coffee (but didn’t have any of coffee’s physical or nutritional characteristics), you’d be up in arms. So why are we giving food marketers so much leeway with chemical colors and flavors that help THEM save money, but dupe us every day?
How to Fight Back
1. Read labels. Don’t assume that because you see it on the label, it’s in the box. Or that if it’s not on the label, it’s not in the box.
2. Avoid buying packaged foods. I know, it sounds extreme, but it’s actually easier than you think. Stay away from the middle of the store – shop the periphery, where most non-processed food lives. Buy strawberries rather than strawberry-flavored gook. Make a game of it for a week, just to see how you do – you may be surprised at how simple and tasty your meals become!
3. If you’re going to choose a packaged food, choose the simplest one the brand offers. As an example, next time you’re in the grocery store, compare the ingredients in Triscuits (whole wheat, oil, and salt) to the ingredients in any other Triscuit flavor (too long to list here, and includes MSG, ugh). Or compare regular Quaker Oatmeal to the “strawberries and cream” abomination mentioned above.
Here’s one more for the road: Snyder’s of Hanover Eat Smart Veggie Crisps claim to be “A bountiful blend of potato, spinach, and tomato chips.” However, they boast more potassium chloride than spinach. Doesn’t sound very bountiful to me.