Don't Buy This: 'Healthy' Products Not Always So

So it's back to Jamie Lee Curtis again.  If you were one of the millions who bought her claim that probiotics make you healthier, it's bogus.

And Dannon and Activia had to pay $35 million for saying so, according to David Zincenko at yahoohealth.com.  The companies charged more for their yogurt without proving any of their claims that it was better for you than other yogurts out there.  Zincenko warns that there are lots of other products out there that claim to be healthful, (and cost more) which really aren't.

He adds Franken Berry cereal to the list.  The label claims it's made from 100% whole grain, but it can still have considerable amounts of white flour (and does) and still get away with it.  Or, and this hurt, "Cheetos Puffs 0 Grams Trans Fat." In this case, Zincenko writes, "To claim  '0 grams of trans fat,' a product must contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving--so it's not necessarily trans fat-free. The dead giveaway? The words "partially hydrogenated" on the ingredient list."

Ok, so half a gram is a tiny amount. Zincenko recommends you should get fewer than two grams a day (and none is best).  "But don't assume the product is healthy even if it doesn't contain any trans-fat." There could still be loads of sugar and salt in it to make up for the lower fat content.

And don't forget Snackwell's Devil Food Cookie Cakes.  Remember the big fuss when they came out?   They were one of the first "fat-free" desserts.  People in my crowd went wild. But what you don't know, Zincenko reports, is that their first four ingredients are sugar, enriched flour, high-fructose corn syrup and corn syrup.  Nothing healthy about that!

And what about Kellogg's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop Tarts?  Now, any parent would probably know that these couldn't possibly be healthy. But the package claims it's a "good source of 7 vitamins and minerals."  True?  The reality is, load a product with refined flour, Zincenko says, and by federal law, the flour must contain five of the seven vitamins the product is claiming. 

Here's two more that will most likely shock you as much as they did me: Welch's 100% Grape Juice and Kellogg's Corn Flakes.  No sugar added, Welch's claims, but it actually has more sugar than a 12-oz. glass of soda!  Zincenko didn't say how they get around that.

And the corn flakes?  Zincenko says some boxes have a "diabetes friendly" logo on them but some studies have shown that corn flakes raise your blood sugar faster than a spoonful of straight sugar.  Kellogg's does suggest on the box that you consult web sites for information on diabetes, and provides some nutritional advice, but it's from Kellogg consultants, so it's not exactly bias-free.

So what should you do when you want to buy healthful foods and snacks for your kids? Must you shop only at Whole Foods?   No.  Just know what to look for (high-fructose corn syrup, refined flour, sugar, hydrogenated anything) and see if the product lists them as ingredients.

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