Chances are, wed have no whole-wheat breads, crackers, and pastas, for starters. No yogurt and soy milk, either. Not even brown rice, bulgur, herbal teas, or granola, for goodness sake.
Now you can buy those and dozens of other foods in the supermarket, but they got their start in health-food stores. And health-food stores are still the only places you can find foods that have yet to hit the mainstream.
Whats more, health-food stores have the biggest stocks of organic foods, and many now carry a tantalizing selection of freshly cooked, out-of-this-world salads, soups, breads, and entrees, many of them made with top-quality whole foods.
But health-food stores, for all their merits, still sell some items that are anything but healthful. They may have organic, natural, and other virtuous-sounding claims splashed all over their designer packages, but whats inside is no betterand is sometimes worsethan what you might find in the supermarket.
Heres a smattering of items to watch out for. If you dont see these brands in your store, chances are youll find others that make similar claims.
The information for this article was compiled by Tamar Genger.
Why drink ordinary water when you can drink nutrient enhanced water? Glaceau Vitamin Waters Defense Lemon Ice seems to target people who want to boost their immune systems. But theres no good evidence that the ingredientszinc, vitamin C, echinacea, and arabinogalactancan prevent colds, the flu, or other infections. And if youve got a cold, the echinacea may help, but the vitamin C and zinc probably wont (only zinc lozenges seem to work).
Vitamins + water = whats in your hand, says the label. Not quite. Unlike other water, this one has 125 calories per bottle. Its really water + sugar + vitamins + hype.
Mrs. Densons Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies dont pretend to be a stalk of broccoli. But the All Natural, High Energy, and No Refined Sugar claims make them look like something special. Whats special is that the 140 calories listed on the Nutrition Facts label apply to only a quarter of the cookie. A 560-calorie cookie is what high-energy claims are all about. Theyre just a way to say high-calorie in a government-approved, food-industry-friendly language that fools consumers.
Its bad enough that these all natural banana slices are fried, sweetened, and pumped up with natural banana flavor. Instead of a 100-calorie fresh banana, each modest (1/4 cup) serving supplies 150 calories, thank you very much. Worse yet, the banana chips are fried in coconut oil, the most saturated fat around. Of the eight grams of fat in each serving, seven are saturated. A McDonalds Quarter Pounder has eight grams of sat fat.
Dont like vegetables? Synders of Hanover conveniently mixes them into its bountiful blend of potato, spinach, and tomato chips. Whats bountiful is Snyders chutzpah. Surely the company doesnt think that a few grams of tomato purée and spinach qualify as vegetables.
To their credit, the crisps are made with non-hydrogenated canola oil. (Only slices of potato or other vegetables can be called chips. Crisps are molded from potato flour.) But If you want to enjoy the simple goodness of garden fresh vegetables, as the label claims, dont expect Snydersor most other brands of veggie crispsto help.
Linda McCartney Meals...naturally a better way to eat, says the label. Its tough to criticize foods named after a vegetarian activist who died of breast cancer. But someone at Ethnic Gourmet should have known better.
No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives doesnt make up for half a days saturated fat (ten grams) and sodium (1,220 mg) in this 450-calorie Vegetable Burrito with Spanish Rice. Memo to the misinformed manufacturer: White rice and white flour, the first two ingredients, arent as healthful (or natural) as whole grains. And bean-and-vegetable burritos should be low in fat. All the cream, milk, and cheese in this dish can raise the risk of heart disease, which kills more women than breast cancer. Only four of the 13 items in Lindas line are low in saturated fat.
Soy protein lowers cholesterol, so how can you go wrong with a Soy Delicious Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert? Its the organic chocolate coating made with organic coconut oil that will get you prepped for an organic coronary bypass. Each bar has a third of a days saturated fat, not to mention 300 calories. Beware of chocolate coatingwhich is much worse than chocolate itselfon any food, whether or not its organic, natural, or soy. It almost always contains highly saturated palm kernel or coconut oil.
Unless theyre homemade, soups are nearly always salty, and Kettle Cuisine Soups, with 800-or-so milligrams of sodium, are no exception. But at least you can depend on most store-bought soups to be low in fat. Not Kettle Cuisine.
When they say Cream of Broccoli, they mean it. The cream, chicken fat, cheese, and butter in each bowl add up to ten grams of saturated fatnearly a Big Macs worth. You can add Kettles New England Clam Chowder (14 grams of sat fat) to your watch list. And if the six grams of sat fat in the Hungarian Mushroom Soup arent enough for you, just follow the labels serving ideas to add meat, poultry, or meatballs and top with sour cream.
Weve got a serving idea ...but you cant follow it unless youve got a trash can handy.