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Kraft Dinner Smart Vegetables boasts  a 1/2 serving of veggies (cauliflower) per 50g serving.

If this leaves you shaking your head as much as I am shaking mine (perhaps with a few colourful words tossed in for good measure), continue reading.

I find the words Kraft Dinner, smart and vegetables in one title to be a bit of an oxymoron no?  Perhaps just really great marketing.

The ingredients list from said product:

Pasta (wheat flour, freeze-dried cauliflower), cheese sauce (dried whey [from milk], cheddar cheese, salt, butter, sodium phosphates, natural flavours, citric acid (acidulant), annatto (for colour).

Let’s break this down shall we?

Freeze-dried Cauliflower – The cauliflower is freeze-dried and then processed with wheat to become pasta, then when time to cook, the pasta is boiled  on high heat.  According to researchers at the University of Warwick, boiling Brassica vegetables (like cauliflower and broccoli) severely damages the anticancer properties.1  Not to mention this is a ridiculous amount of processing for a vegetable to go through.

Natural Flavours – I’m not entirely sure which part of Kraft Dinner has natural flavour.  According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the term natural flavouring is defined as the following: “Substances which impart flavours which have been derived from a plant or animal source, may be claimed to be "natural". As well, any additive, such as preservatives and solvents added to a flavour preparation to have a technological effect solely on the flavour, does not modify the "natural" status of the flavouring material itself. However, the addition does alter the natural status of the food to which it has been added, even though it need not be declared as an ingredient on the food label. In other words, such foods may not be claimed to "contain only natural ingredients".2”  Therefore we do not know what these natural flavours are made of.

Per 50g serving there is 380mg of Sodium and 7g of sugar which is a lot.  And let’s not take away from the fact that Kraft Dinner Smart is highly processed.  Opening a box and adding water does not give you the same quality of nutrients as lightly steaming cauliflower or perhaps having a small portion of brown rice pasta.

What do you think of Kraft’s new line, Kraft Dinner Smart?

Resources

1. Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick.  “Research Says Boiling Broccoli Ruins Its Anti Cancer Properties.”  5 May 2007.  9 Oct 11. <Research Says Boiling Broccoli Ruins Its Anti Cancer Properties.>

2. Canada. Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising Chapters 4.  3 Mar 2011.  9 Oct 11. <http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/guide/ch4ae.shtml>

I live quite close to a Lush shop in Toronto, a company that touts “Fresh Handmade Cosmetics” many of which are vegan and not tested on animals.  Lush is seemingly perfect right?  Wrong.

While Lush’s products are not food, I think it’s important to feature them on Busted because they are certainly healthwashed.

For example, Lush’s Sweetie Pie Shower Jelly.

Sure it’s got a cute name, sweet smell and is wobbly.  But what the heck is this stuff made of?

The ingredients list is as follows:

Glycerine, Cherry Infusion (Prunus cerasus), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Coconut Infusion (Cocos nucifera), Propylene Glycol, Carrageenan Extract (Chondrus crispus), Perfume, Bergamot Oil (Citrus bergamia), Cassis Absolute (Ribes nigrum), Cypress Oil (Cupressus sempervirens), *Limonene, *Linalool, Iridescent Glitter (Polyethylene terephthalate and Acrylates copolymer), Snowflake Lustre (Potassium Silicate & Titanium Dioxide), FD&C Blue No. 1, D&C Red No. 33, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

The breakdown…

Sodium Laureth Sulfate – This is an ingredient that makes products foam.  Health Canada classifies Sodium Laureth Sulfate as a “moderate human health priority” and flagged it for future assessment under the government’s Chemicals Management Plan.1

Snowflake Lustre (Potassium Silicate & Titanium Dioxide) – It’s weird when ingredients have ingredients right?  Titanium Dioxide (Ti02) is a chemical that is part of this “Snowflake Lustre.”  In a study done by UCLA, Ti02 nanoparticles induced single and double-strand DNA breaks, chromosomal damage and inflammation, all which increase the risk for cancer.2  Not something I would want in my shower cleanser.

FD&C Blue No. 1 – This is a synthetic dye made from petroleum aka coal tar.  Coal tar is recognized as a human carcinogen and the main concern with individual coal tar colours is their potential to cause cancer as well as contamination with low levels of heavy metals.3 

Methylparaben and Propylparaben – Parabens are synthetic compounds that act as preservatives and prevent the growth of molds, yeasts and other microbes.4  When parabens are applied to the skin and absorbed, they bypass the metabolic process and enter the blood stream and body organs intact.5  They are stored in the body’s fatty tissues and cannot be flushed out with water, so they accumulate over the years and affect menstruation, reproduction and even fat metabolism.6

So while Sweetie Pie Shower Jelly is going to make you sparkly, do you really want all these ingredients on your skin as your trying to get clean?  I don’t think so.

References

1. “Sodium Laureth Sulfate.”  David Suzuki Foundation, n.d.  Website.  25 Sep. 2011.  <http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—sodium-laureth-sulfate/>
2. University of California – Los Angeles. "Nanoparticles used in common household items cause genetic damage in mice." ScienceDaily, 17 Nov. 2009. Web. 25 Sep. 2011. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116165739.htm>
3. “Coal Tar Dyes.”  David Suzuki Foundation, n.d. Website. 25 Sep. 2011. <http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—coal-tar-dyes/>
4. Haas, Elson M.  Staying Healthy With Nutrition.  New York: Celestial Arts, 1992. p469.
5. “Parabens.”  David Suzuki Foundation, n.d. Website. 25 Sep. 2011. <http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—parabens/>
6. Deacon, G.  There’s Lead In Your Lipstick.  Toronto: Penguin, 2011. p84.

A vegan ragging on a vegan product? 

Truth.

When I first transitioned to a plant-based diet I had no idea what I was doing nutritionally speaking.  As a young, moderately hip twenty-something I wanted to prepare meals for friends while still abiding by my belief of compassion for animals.

Enter Yves Veggie Cuisine Original Veggie Ground Round.  It seemed perfect enough at first – it had protein, it was easy to make and it allowed me to cook veggie tacos that looked like real tacos for the non-vegetarians in my life.

The more I learned about nutrition the less Ground Round appealed to me.  And thankfully now, I have learned to be creative AND healthy when preparing meals.

The ingredients list is as follows:

Water, soy protein product, wheat protein product, onions, natural flavour, canola oil, salt, guar gum, evaporated cane juice, malt extract, caramel colour, spices, yeast extract, vitamins and minerals (thiamine hydrochloride, riboflavin, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanocobalamin, calcium pantothenate, reduced iron, zinc oxide, wheat starch). Contains soy and wheat. May contain eggs.

The breakdown…

Soy Protein Product – Soy is very controversial.  Many studies conducted have said soy is good, many have said the opposite.  That is for another post.  However, whether soy is good or bad what it should not be is genetically-modified.  While Ground Round is said to be GMO-free, it is not Certified Organic.  Soy is also a common allergen.  *As of the publication of this post, I have emailed Hain Celestial twice asking if they can confirm their soy is GMO-free, I have yet to hear back.

Wheat Protein Product – Wheat protein product is also known as gluten.  This is highly allergenic and can provoke sensitivities in some people.  This helps give the Ground Round its chewy texture.

Canola Oil – According to the Canola Council of Canada’s website, 80% of all canola grown in Western Canada has been genetically-modified to be herbicide-resistant.  I was unable to find information on Yves website discussing if their canola oil is fact GMO-free.

Caramel Colour – Is a food colouring agent made by heating a solution of various sugars, often together with ammonium compounds, acids or alkalis.The Centre For Science In The Public Interest also puts caramel colouring on their avoid list.  As stated by the USDA here, caramel colour is part of a class of exempted colour additives  as it is derived from naturals sources and therefore are not required to be declared by name on labels but may be declared as colourings or colour added.  However, because the natural source of where this caramel colouring is derived from is not mentioned, it could be anything and is not stated as being GMO-free.

Since giving up soy-based products a few years ago (with the exception of some desserts here and there) I have discovered a love to preparing health, whole food vegan meals that everyone can enjoy and be satisfied with.  And now if I make veggie tacos I skip the faux-meat filling in favour of ground walnuts and spices (which provide the same texture.)

References

1. “Chemical Cuisine: Learn About Food Additives.” Center For Science In The Public Interest. 2011. 17 Sep 11. <http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#caramel>

Introducing Busted, my new series on products that are marketed to be healthy but whose ingredients may be deemed questionable.  I present the information, you decide what to do with it.

When I was in my early 20’s my breakfast would generally consist of a big bowl of Special K cereal with skim milk.  Kellogg’s then introduced Special K Red Berries and that became my favourite.  Cereal AND fruit together in one box?  Perfect.  I was blissfully unaware that freeze-dried, conventionally-grown strawberries did not count as a serving of fruit.

Now, years later Special K has a new cereal with the tagline “this cereal satisfies your hunger to help you resist temptation.”

Meet Special K’s Satisfaction cereal

Here’s a look at the (Canadian) ingredient list:

A bit frightening, yes?  There’s an awful lot of scary looking words in that ingredient list.  Let’s break it down –

Artificial flavours – Since there is no further information provided, artificial flavours could mean anything. 

BHT (butylated hydroxytoulene) – As stated on Kellogg’s website, BHT is “an anti-oxidant that is used to preserve the freshness of foods.  Some Kellogg’s products have it in their liners for increased freshness.”1  BHT remains quite controversial.  According to the David Suzuki Foundation, BHT can induce allergic reactions in the skin and there is some (while limited) evidence that high doses may mimic estrogen.2 It is unnecessary or is easily replaced by safe substitutes, avoid when possible.3

Polydextrose – is a compound synthesized from dextrose (glucose) and is used to provide bulk in foods, thereby reducing the caloric content.  Health Canada has concluded that Polydextrose is safe for human consumption but warns that excessive consumption could lead to gastro-intestinal discomfort and laxative effects.4 

Sucralose (Splenda) – An artificial sweetner that is made by taking cane sugar and selectively replacing 3 hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with 3 chlorine atoms.5  While the Center For Science In The Public Interest has deemed the consumption of sucralose safe, the product was approved by the United States in 1998 and therefore there are no long term studies available yet to disprove its safety for human consumption.

Among the other ingredients are also wheat, soy, corn and barley which are considered to be allergenic foods.  There is also a large amount of sugar per serving size and I do not agree with having large quantities of processed sugar let alone for breakfast.

I can’t get no satisfaction…

And quite frankly, I don’t want any.

Some healthy breakfast alternatives could be quinoa topped with blueberries, chia seeds, flaxseeds and non-dairy milk.  Oatmeal with almonds, raspberries and cinnamon is also good.  As is raw buckwheat breakfast, my favourite way to start the morning!

References

1. “Consumer Service, Nutrition & ingredient FAQs.” Kellogg’s. 2011. 3 Sep 2011. <http://www2.kelloggs.ca/ContactUs.aspx>

2. “BHA and BHT.” David Suzuki Foundation. Date unknown. 3 Sep 2011. <http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—bha-and-bhti/>

3.  “Chemical Cuisine: Learn About Food Additives.”  Center For Science In The Public Interest.  2011.  3 Sep 11.  <http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm>

4.  Canada. Health Canada. Sugar Alcohols (Polyols) & Polydextrose used as Sweetners in foods. 16 Feb 2005. 3 Sep 2011. <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/addit/sweeten-edulcor/polyols_polydextose_factsheet-polyols_polydextose_fiche-eng.php>

5. “Q & A.”  Splenda.  2009.  3 Sep 11.  <http://www.sucralose.com/About/QA/Pages/Default.aspx>

Recently I got my hands on a copy of the ingredients list for Tim Horton’s “Real Fruit” Smoothies.  Ever since this item hit the menu it’s been a source of contention with me and since finding out what’s actually in it, I know why.

Here’s a look at the ingredients found in Tim Horton’s “Real Fruit” Smoothies:

Mixed Berry Fruit Smoothie: Water, Fruit Purees And Juices (Strawberry Puree, Raspberry Puree, Apple Juice Concentrate, Blackberry Puree, Blueberry Concentrate), Glucose-Fructose (High Fructose Corn Syrup), Glucose, Molasses, Salt, Potassium Sorbate, Caramel Colour.

Strawberry Banana Fruit Smoothie: Water, Fruit Purees And Juices (Banana Puree, Apple Juice Concentrate, Strawberry Puree, Elderberry Juice, Concentrate, Lemon Juice Concentrate), Glucose-Fructose (High Fructose Corn
Syrup), Glucose, Molasses, Salt, Potassium Sorbate, Caramel Colour, Natural Flavour.

In this article, Dave McKay, Marketing Director for Beverages at Tim Horton’s says “Canadians are constantly looking for snacking options that fit their active lifestyles.  We’re helping fill that gap with healthier choices with our refreshing Real Fruit Smoothies."

Now Dave, tell me what on Earth High-Fructose Corn Syrup (presumably genetically-modified) is doing in a so-called “real fruit” smoothie?  What about salt, molasses and caramel colour?  And what does ‘natural flavour’ mean?

And while I don’t tend to not get wrapped up in calorie-counting and nutritional data (because when eating “real food” it tends to not matter) the nutritional information of a small Mixed Berry Fruit Smoothie (without yogurt) is out of whack:

Sugar = 30g
Dietary Fiber = 1g
Protein = 0g

What this means is you are pumping your bod full of sugar (and much of it refined and processed) without any fiber or protein to slow down absorption.  Hello reactive hypoglycemia.

So where does that leave us?  We want something budget friendly and easy AND healthy.

Welcome the basic green smoothie.

Green smoothies are taking the healthy-living and trying to be healthy communities by storm.  Why?  Because they are a super easy and inexpensive way to get a lot of nutrients in 10 minutes or less.

Basic Green Smoothie

Ingredients

1 banana, raw or frozen (1 bunch $1.29)
1 cup mango, frozen (1 bag $4.99)
2 generous handfuls spinach (Small container $3.99)
1 scoop protein powder (Genuine Health Vegan Protein Vanilla $19.99)
2 cups filtered water

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients and blend until relatively smooth (if using a high-powered blender this will take no time at all)

Once you get the hang of it, start experimenting with different ingredients.  Always change up your greens and try a variety of superfoods, fruits and vegetables.

Check out one of my favourite books, Green For Life by Victoria Boutenko.

A note about blenders; I own 3 – the love of my life and my favourite kitchen appliance, the Blend-Tec (a high-powered blender), a regular blender that’s about 10 years old and a Magic Bullet.  All have different price points but each works great.  You don’t need to spend tons of money to get a quality blender.

To learn more about the dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup, check out these sources:

  • American Chemical Society. "Soda Warning? High-fructose Corn Syrup Linked To Diabetes, New Study Suggests." ScienceDaily, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 31 Aug. 2011.
  • Princeton University study
  • Weston A. Price article

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