Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How Food Becomes Candy

I just made a snack for my son: some pineapple, a few strawberries, and a low-fat cheese stick. He gobbled down the strawberries and poked at the pineapple. 

"You know I don't like new fruit, mom."

"Try it. You'll like it. It's super-sweet."

"Like candy?"

"Almost. I think fruit is sweeter than candy. It's like candy from nature."

This exchange reminded me of how quickly food in our world doesn't just taste like candy, it becomes candy. One stroll down the yogurt aisle proves it.

What is yogurt? Cultured milk, right? Yes. But look at the label for 90% of the yogurt in your grocery store and tell me how many are really yogurt. Let's take a look at Chobani's Pineapple Low-fat Yogurt for example. The package promises only natural ingredients, fruit on the bottom, and features that "it-must-be-good-for-me" buzz word for yogurt: "Greek". Flip it over and see what else it has:

Evaporated Cane Juice, Pineapple, Pectin, Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Locust Bean Gum, Natural Flavor, Turmeric (for Color).

First ingredient: sugar. Oops! This just became candy!

Let's try another one. Stoneyfield Farms Organic YoBaby Drinkable Yogurt for toddlers. It's organic, so it must be good, right? Well let's see. It starts out as yogurt with its first ingredient: cultured whole milk. Then it adds organic sugar. Woah! It just became candy! See how fast that happened? And I used to give that to my son. Yes it is organic but it doesn't matter anymore because this is not food. It's candy. And we don't eat candy because candy isn't food.

I made this at home. It was super yummy and had that oh-so-magical Greek yogurt, all-natural ingredients, and fruit on the bottom. And the top and middle, too. But it didn't have any sugar. It was not candy. It was food!  My little baby eats fruit and yogurt all the time, but not YoBaby. I make him Greek yogurt with some pureed mango mixed in. Sometimes blueberries. But no sugar. Babies don't eat candy, silly! 

Both Chobani and Stoneyfield Farms have some excellent products that actually are food. They are the ones where the list of ingredients begins and ends with, "cultured milk." I buy and eat them all the time and they're great! I add my own fruit and nuts to make them into a delicious snack that tastes like candy...but isn't.

I saw this at my local grocery store and knew that a lot of people would pick it up thinking it would be a healthy snack. Its fresh fruit and yogurt! Doesn't Gillian Michaels eat that? But wait...take a look at the ingredients list. I see cultured milk....and then a whole bunch of other stuff including sugar, artificial sweetener, corn starch, and down at the very bottom, fruit. This is not food. This is candy. Put it back and go get food.

The yogurt aisle is just one place where candy is pretending to be food. Check out the bread aisle, and OMG just the cereal aisle alone is practically like trick-or-treating. How do you not buy candy? Easy. Read the ingredients and put back anything that has sugar as one of the first five ingredients. Oh, and beware of anything with more than five ingredients. :) Hint: You might want to buy a bread maker and start eating oatmeal.

Candy is not forbidden in my house. We trick or treat and we have candy canes at Christmas and jelly beans at Easter just like everyone else. But, we don't let candy pretend it is food. The next time you head to the grocery store, plan to spend a little extra time reading labels and make sure you're buying actual food. 

Get out there and get healthy today, even if it means not letting your kids eat candy and call it food.


1 comment:

Ellen said...

I couldn't agree with you more. My daily breakfast is PLAIN low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit, cinnamon, ground flax seeds and a little extra sweet from a sprinkle of granola on top.

As you noted, sugar or its cousin high fructose corn syrup show up in MANY ingredient lists where one wouldn't expect them; especially in SAVORY items, including some flavored potato chips.

Eating "real food" is always the right answer--thanks for reminding us of that.