The Ugly Truth About What Is In the Food We Eat

Fact of Life: You’re Busy and You Need to Eat

Here’s the deal. We’re busy. We need to eat, and we need to eat often. Many have to feed others in their household. The time and care spent on food shopping and preparation can seem massive and overwhelming. Some days I wish out loud that somehow we could get all of our nourishment from the sun, like plants, or from one food, like pandas. Sunlight or bamboo? I’d happily trade all of the pleasure I get from food for the ease of not having to shop for it, store it, cook it, serve it, and clean it up. I spend an hour at the grocery store pushing a heavy cart, spending more money a month on food than I do on my mortgage, lugging the bags up the hill to my house, putting it all away, cooking it and cleaning it all up, and three days later I have to do it all again. Could a steady diet of bamboo really be that bad?

Isn’t “Health Food” …Healthy?

For many of us, convenience is very important. If we can’t simply climb a stalk and eat the leaves, we at least need to be efficient shoppers and preparers. Of course, healthy eating is just as important which is why we scan a food label for some key words that promise good health. “High fiber”, “whole grain”, “antioxidant rich” all sound like food I want to eat. Unfortunately, after years of investigating foods and reading food labels, I’ve discovered that what’s really in your shopping cart is not on the front of any package. It’s all about the ingredient label.

Kellogg’s Special K Fruit and Yogurt Cereal sounds perfectly nutritious with its health claim of “good source of fiber & made with whole grain.” At over $5 a box for the “value size”, it’s certainly not cheap food. The photo on the front shows delicious and healthful strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. I’m sold! Now I take an extra minute to turn the box around and read the ingredient label because that’s where the truth lies. Wait a minute. There are no berries in this box. I turn the box over again, and I don’t see the words “Serving Suggestion” anywhere under those beautiful berries. Where are the berries?? The ingredient label tells the tale. The “berries” are dried apples dyed with red 40 and blue 1 to look like a berry. The only fruit in this “Fruit and Yogurt” cereal are some measly dried apples. Seriously? And to make it worse, there are also 7 different types of sugar, 9 chemical food additives, and 10 synthetic vitamins and minerals.  Basically, the box has rice, wheat, lots of sugar in many forms, a bunch of chemicals, and some sprayed on vitamins. Now, after making a habit of reading food labels, I can’t go shopping without asking myself “What’s really in my shopping cart?” and don’t be alarmed if you see me scanning yours as well.