Reading into ‘healthy’ ingredients on labels

As a new parent, I am constantly amazed at the world around us, and the way we have changed food for the worse.

Last week I was offered a snack for my son at a restaurant — a package of Mott’s All Natural Fruit Snacks. Some may think it’s rude but I am more interested in my son’s health than I am in being perceived as polite so I read the label in front of the waitress.

‘Fruit and vegetable juice from concentrate (apple, grape, carrot, sweet potato), corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch (corn), gelatin, citric acid, natural flavour, acerola extract (Vitamin C), sodium citrate, white mineral oil, carnauba wax.’

“No thanks,” I said. She was a bit surprised stating that she thought they were very healthy. I pointed out the very high amounts of sugar (corn syrup, sugar and modified corn starch as the second, third and fourth ingredients) as well as the mineral oil and carnauba wax (which I use to polish my car in the summer). I was very gracious and just stated that my seven-month old was too young for such things.

Truth be told we should never eat such garbage. Yet the package label claims that this stuff is ‘healthy’ — not in my opinion and it is why I always read food labels. Always.

Another doozy is probably one of the most wide spread myths I have come across when it comes to children — giving them Cheerios. This one is so common and so widely accepted that I was actually going to buy some outright without checking and thankfully stopped to read the label anyway. I was shocked. Cheerios are anything but healthy in my opinion.

Whole grain oats, cornstarch, sugar and/or golden sugar, salt, trisodium phosphate, calcium carbonate, monoglycerides, tocopherols, wheat starch, annatto, vitamins and minerals: niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folate, iron.

This is what we are supposed to feed our children because it is so ‘healthy’? Whole grain oats is ok, but at 2g of fibre per serving, clearly these are highly processed whole grain oats with all of the good stuff removed. Then we see cornstarch and sugar as ingredients number two and three? That is not healthy at all but the next ingredient is the fun one — trisodium phosphate. Go to your local hardware store and ask for TSP. You will find it in the paint aisle because it is a caustic cleaner used to remove grease, stains and dirt off walls before you paint them. It can burn your skin if exposed too long and has warning labels on the container. It is amazing at cleaning old walls and instantly dissolving grime, so why is this in Cheerios? It regulates acidity and helps as a thickening agent for making the ‘O’ shapes.

Since there are healthy versions of breakfast ‘O’ cereals, proving that it is possible, I am going to stick with ‘no’.

Back to the label there are some cheap quality vitamins included next like calcium carbonate for example — the worst and lowest quality calcium there is. It is cheap, not well absorbed by the body and requires extra stomach acid to digest. We also see some fatty acid and more vitamins as well as the food colouring agent — annatto. Annatto is also used medicinally as a bowel cleanser among other things. Interesting.

In both of these examples the label, the box and all the marketing tell you how healthy these products are but all you have to do is read the label to realize that these are examples of a ‘healthy’ myth.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.