Processed vs. Real Food

6 Jun

If you’re looking for advice on “getting and staying healthy“, you’d think your health insurance provider might be a place to start. They certainly have a vested interest in keeping you away from the doctor’s office. But the word healthy is so broadly defined. My daughter will ask me when I make something like muffins or pancakes if they’re healthy, and my stock answer is that if you maintain a balanced diet and don’t face any particular health issues, there’s not a problem with enjoying a large variety of foods including the occasional scratch sweet.

What I do consider unhealthy are the unrecognizable sugar impostors and chemicals found in many nutrient-stripped processed foods. What’s worse is that they are promoted as good for us because they follow current diet fads like being low in fat, carbs or calories. This makes for stellar marketing, but the “diet” label does not equate to healthy. Food at is best is not created in a lab.

When I received an invitation to savings the other day from my health plan Anthem Blue Cross, how could I resist opening an envelope with a banner on the outside announcing:


Maybe a discount at a local health club or for a cooking class? Or an offer to buy 3 apples and get the 4th one free? Or 5% off my produce purchase at Whole Foods.

I was a bit disappointed to find out that “the solutions and savings I deserve” are frozen novelties from Weight Watchers and Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom! To help me “get and stay healthy“! Well it is a good thing Anthem let me know they’re “putting the power of good health in the best of hands – (mine).” Because if I or others are lured by 1) the cost savings offered and 2) the suggestion that these two products are a means of “lowering risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and stroke” ..and.. “(giving) me energy and (keeping my) muscles and bones strong“, they may just find themselves with some costly healthcare bills.

The main selling point for Blue Bunny Ice Cream is that it has no sugar added. Instead it is sweetened with other sugar compounds including sugar alcohols which come to find out may cause bloating and diarrhea when consumed in excessive amounts. Even the label states, “excessive consumption of sugar alcohols may have a laxative effect in sensitive persons.” I hope I’m not sensitive or this is yet another possible doctors visit.

I’ll take the real sugar any day over this long list of food-like substances and sugar impostors:

Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Banana Split Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS: Milk, Skim Milk, Cream, Strawberry Banana Ribbon {Strawberries, Liquid Maltitol (Maltitol, Water), Liquid Polydextrose (Polydextrose, Water), Banana Puree (Bananas, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid), Water, Food Starch-Modified, Natural Flavor, Pectin (Pectin, Dextrose, Sodium Citrate), Food Acids (Phosphoric, Citric, Malic, and Tartaric Acids), Red 40, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium}, Maltodextrin, Polydextrose, Chocolate Ribbon {Liquid Sorbitol, Polydextrose, Water, Maltitol, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Cocoa, Salt, Artificial & Natural Flavor, Tricalcium Phosphate, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Food Starch-Modified}, Sorbitol, Pineapple Chunks and Cherries {Pineapple, Cherries, Water, Maltitol, Sorbitol, Polydextrose, Maltodextrin, Food Starch-Modified, Food Acids (Citric, Phosphoric, Malic, Tartaric), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Turmeric for Color, Red 40, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium}, Mixed Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt), Contains less than 1% of Glycerine, Propylene Glycol Monoesters, Mono & Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Carob Bean Gum, Cellulose Gel, Cellulose Gum, Vanilla Extract and Artificial Vanilla Flavor, Carrageenan, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Vitamin A Palmitate.

What’s surprising is that the Anthem’s website clearly states:

Avoid trans fats. Almost none of your daily calories should come from trans fat! It both raises LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and lowers HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. This double threat can raise your risk of coronary heart disease.

Quite a contradiction. They even let you know that:

Fortunately, the amount of trans fat is listed on Nutrition Facts labels. This gives you the information you need to make food choices that help reduce the risk of heart disease.

So why then are they promoting this product? What is going on between Blue Bunny and Anthem Blue?

With the second product, Weight Watchers Low-Fat Cream Cheese Frosting Flavored Ice Cream with a Red Velvet Chocolate Swirl Between Two Red Velvet Chocolate Flavored Wafers, I did not get much further than reading this long, unappealing product label. Doesn’t look very tasty:

Weight Watchers Red Velvet Ice Cream BarsINGREDIENTS: Low Fat Ice Cream: Skim Milk, Milk, Red Velvet Ribbon (Corn Syrup, Water, Sugar, Cocoa Processed Alkali, Food Starch-Modified, Nonfat Dry Milk, Red 40, Salt, Carob Bean Gum, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Natural Flavor), Sugar, Polydextrose, Corn Syrup, Cream Cheese Base (Corn Syrup, Water, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Food Starch-Modified, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid), Contains 1% Or Less of Citrus Fiber, Propylene Glycol Monoesters, Mono & Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Modified Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate. Wafer: Wheat Flour, Sugar, Canola Oil, Dextrose, Caramel Color, Corn Syrup, Cocoa, Food Starch-Modified, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Baking Soda, Natural Flavor, Red 40 Powder. Contains Milk, Soy, Wheat.

It seems that in the interest of good health, my plan should be discouraging consumption of these health-foods-in-disguise and help me to resist catchy fad-oriented labels. Instead, they should encourage a common sense approach to eating.

Here are a couple of resources worth checking out if you are interesting in replacing processed products with whole foods.

100 Days of Real FoodThis site provides great purpose, ideas and recipes as it follows one family’s quest to eat real in a processed food world.

Summer TomatoThis Bay Area advocate of local, seasonal foods recently wrote a great book called Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting.  Her website shares solid principles that support the pleasure of eating authentic food.

I’ll leave you with some humor related to what can be a fruitless quest to eat healthy when confronted with endless eating do’s and don’ts, ultimately leading to a single choice – lightly seasoned homegrown kale.

2 Responses to “Processed vs. Real Food”

  1. loloslunch June 11, 2013 at 4:14 am #

    Great post. I love your stock answer for your daughter, I agree with it myself. Completely disappointing about your BlueCross healthy savings, but like you said there is probably a reason they want us eating that crap.

  2. alicemsharp June 5, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    Well said! Anthem Blue Cross is acting irresponsible. Clearly they do not use Common Sense when encouraging their clients to eat healthy.

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