Beware of faux “healthy” foods

Many of us are trying to eat healthier these days. Grocery stores are full of products that appear to be healthy choices – but it can be difficult to know what is truly “healthy.” It takes careful reading of product labels to distinguish claims on the front of the product (such as “good source of XYZ”) from the details in the nutrition facts and the ingredient list. I consider myself an avid reader of labels, particularly to confirm that products are gluten free. But I was fooled this week, and wanted to share my cautionary tale.

Mr. Coach loves potatoes – especially fries and “tots”. We’ve mostly substituted cauliflower products for potatoes in our recipes, and we often eat cauliflower steamed or mashed. I wanted to find something to satisfy that fried potato mouthfeel as a treat, so when I saw that Green Giant now offers cauliflower veggie tots – see details at – I grabbed a bag. We both enjoyed eating them and felt good about making a healthy veggie choice.

The second time I baked them, I looked at the nutrition label. Here are the ingredients:

Cauliflower, Modified Food Starch, Water, Soybean Oil, Contains Less Than 2% Of Citric Acid, Dextrin, Dextrose, Dried Egg, Granulated Garlic, Methylcellulose, Onion Powder, Rice Flour, Salt, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Alginate, Baking Soda, Soy Flour, Spices, Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Starch, Whey, Xanthan Gum, Yellow Corn Flour

Um, ick. Not only do these have wheat gluten, which I am sensitive to, they have food starch, soy, sugar/dextrose, and rice and corn flour. I got really annoyed – at myself for not carefully reading the label initially. There are a couple of lessons here:

  • Always read the labels-don’t assume something is healthy because it looks healthy based on the front of the container! Wheat, soy, sugar, and preservatives abound in products that you wouldn’t expect, like salad dressings, soups, processed vegetable products, etc.
  • Make foods yourself when possible so that you know the exact ingredients – it’s best to avoid products in boxes and bags, which typically have long ingredient lists like those above. When I steam a head of cauliflower and make mashed cauliflower, I know exactly what is going into my food. No more cauliflower tots for us!

Have a wonderful, healthy summer!


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