Healthy Foods That Aren’t Healthy

Posted in Frozen Foods

You probably know what happens when you “assume.” Well, for starters, you can quickly make a donkey out of yourself. So, unless you are vying for a role in Shrek 4, know the facts before making decisions concerning food and drinks for you and your family.

Below is a perfect example of a common assumption: choosing a frozen dinner simply because it has a known, healthy-sounding brand name splashed in eye-catching colors on the box front. Take a look at the ingredients list, then give this frozen entree the cold shoulder.


Szechwan-Style Pork & Asian Noodles
(270 calories, 8g fat, 2.5g sat fat, 880mg sodium, 8g fiber, and 24g protein)

(Additives are in bold) Cooked Diced Pork and Modified Food Starch Product Caramel Color Added (Pork, Water, Salt, Potassium Phosphate, Modified Food Starch, Caramel Color), Cooked Pasta (Water, Whole Wheat Flour, Modified Wheat Starch, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Protein Isolate, Monoglycerides, Modified Food Starch, Soybean Oil, Xanthan Gum, Enzymes), Sugar Snap Peas, Water, Water Chestnuts, Carrots, Yellow Bell Peppers, Soybeans, Contains Less Than 2% Of Soy Sauce (Water, Wheat, Soybeans, Salt, Lactic Acid), Hoisin Sauce (Sugar, Water, Sweet Potatoes, Salt, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Oyster Extract, Modified Food Starch, Caramel Color), Sherry Wine, Chicken Stock, Sesame Oil, Dried Garlic, Dried Onions, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Chili Pepper Puree (Vinegar, Dried Arbol Chili Peppers, Dried Pequin Chili Peppers), Caramel Color, Rice Vinegar, Ginger Puree (Ginger, Water, Citric Acid), Guar Gum, Soy Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Flavor.

Decoding the Fine Print

Okay, it’s got the physician-created South Beach Diet name on the front label, so it’s gotta be a healthy choice, right? Wrong! This variety is super-charged with lots of sodium and additives. Friends, it’s anything but healthy.

After decoding the fine print, our sleuthing staff discovered the following:

  • This dish has a whopping 880mg of sodium, which is 37% of your maximum daily allowance!
  • We counted 19 – yes, 19 – additives padding out the ingredients label. For instance, Modified Food Starch is mentioned six times!! Just for your information, this additive undergoes one or more chemical modifications during food processing. Ouch!

Note: Government guidelines recommend that people consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day – about one teaspoon of salt. So if you eat three meals a day, plus snacks, you’ll want to stay well below 800 milligrams of sodium per meal.

Granted, there were some nutritional benefits:

  • This dish is low-cal (270 calories), has lots of protein (24 grams), and packs plenty of fiber (8 grams).
  • However, in our book, high sodium and excessive amounts of potentially harmful chemical additives outweigh most of the benefits.
  • Therefore, we’ve declared this Szechwan-Style Pork & Asian Noodles frozen entree a “Healthy Food Imposter.” Sorry, Doc.

Note: The South Beach Diet Frozen Entrees tend to have sodium levels between 630mg and 940mg, as well as many chemical additives.

Reality Check

Don’t make assumptions! There’s a huge health difference when it comes to brand-name frozen entrees that are seemingly similar. Only when you compare the ingredients list and the Nutrition Facts Label can you spot the truly healthy choices.

Kashi Lemon Rosemary Chicken(330 calories, 9g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 640mg sodium, 5g fiber, and 17g protein)

Cooked Kashi™ Pilaf (water, whole: oats, long grain brown rice, rye, hard red winter wheat, triticale, buckwheat, dehulled barley, sesame seeds), cooked chicken (chicken breast meat with rib meat, water, rice starch, sea salt, lemon juice, evaporated cane juice, spice), water, sugar snap peas, baby portobello mushrooms, rice starch, extra virgin olive oil, Chablis (white wine), natural* chicken base (chicken broth, salt, chicken fat, onion powder, spices), canola oil, reconstituted lemon juice (water, concentrated lemon juice), garlic (garlic, water,) rosemary, salt, soy flour, whole milk powder, egg white. Note: additives are in bold.

Decoding the Fine Print

  • We like Kashi All-Natural Frozen entrees because they offer convenience, great taste, and provide a nutritional punch!
  • They use REAL, whole-food ingredients, very few additives, and reasonable amounts of fat, plus they keep sodium levels in check.
  • Their offerings tend to range from 400mg to just under 700mg of sodium per meal.

The Lesson

  • Watch out for products that are endorsed by popular diet programs, physicians, or celebrities – the name doesn’t guarantee a healthy choice.
  • Always read the fine print on the ingredients label and the Nutrition Facts Label, so you can avoid brands that use crazy amounts of sodium and cheaper, chemical taste-alike fillers to boost flavor.
  • Look for real, whole-food ingredients – your health and waistline will thank you!

Remember, when you’re armed with a little eBrandAid know-how, you’re in control at the grocery store.

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In Our Opinion: The information contained in the eBrandAid e-newsletters is strictly based on the opinions of the eBrand Doctors. We have created a set of guidelines that we believe will help shoppers to better understand and decode food labels on products found in most grocery stores. Our mission is to help shoppers find the healthier brands that have the least amount of chemicals and other junk ingredients.

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