Be Leery of the Big “O”

The big “O”? Octopus? Oranges? Ostrich? Huh?

Nope, none of those. We’ll save our ostrich talk for another time 😉 In this case, the big “O” I am referring to is “Organic”. People sometimes automatically assume that if something has the organic stamp of approval, that it’s A-Okay to eat.

Don’t get me wrong, organic is wonderful. Going organic is a total thumbs up (vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, meat, etc.) – natural whole foods. You should be choosing organic when it comes to these items.

On the flip side though, if a processed food is labeled organic…it does not, in fact, make it any less processed or necessarily “good” for you.

Selling health is a huge trend, and many manufacturers will do just about anything to make sure their products fit into society’s accepted criteria of what health (although often times fleeting) food is. In fact, for many of these reformed foods, the only real changes that have been made are to the label to play up the positives like, “Now with whole grain”; and sometimes hiding away the negatives like “yeah, but we added 20 tablespoons of sugar to make it even close to appetizing!” What does this leave you with? A product that is only ostensibly healthier than the original.

So what are some of these products you should be aware of? Here’s a selection of nine food items that may be only incrementally healthier than their non-organic counterparts:

1. Nature’s Path Organic Strawberry Toaster Pastries

In a side comparison between the “healthy” organic pastries and Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, the pastries were about the same in terms of calories (210 vs. 205) and fat (3.5 g vs. 4.5 g) but the Kellogg actually had fewer carbs (37 g vs. 40 g) as well as less sugar (17.5 g vs. 19 g). At the end of the day, a toaster pasty is a toaster pastry, and definitely not ideal to kick start the day with!

2. Dr. Oetker Organic Vanilla Cake

A birthday is a birthday, and sometimes you just can’t go without cake! However, Dr. Oetker’s Organic spin on vanilla cake is just a thumbs down from a health perspective. This mixture contains gum Arabic, the same food stabilizer (chemical) used in soda, M&M’s, gum drops, marshmallows and many other candies. This same ingredient is also used in watercolor paints, shoe polish, and other items that you wouldn’t normally consider ingesting, according to Dr. Mercola. Now, gum Arabic won’t kill you – but it doesn’t scream organic either!

3. Annie’s Homegrown Certified Organic Canned Pasta Meals

Annie even recommends this product for toddlers. The first four ingredients (by weight) are water, organic tomato puree, organic macaroni stars and organic evaporated cane juice. Hmm…so we’ve got water, sugar, sugar, and some more sugar! So much so that it’s listed way before any mention of cheese.

4. Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs – Oreo Candy Bites

An oreo is an oreo 😉

5. Gatorade Tiger

After you’ve just exercised and need to replenish, slurping down 25 grams of sugar isn’t too refreshing for your body. This is a drink especially designed for athletes, but is nothing more than sugar water.

6. Activia

This yogurt contains 17 grams of sugar just per 4 oz. serving…that is basically half your days’ worth of sugar consumption.

7. Morningstar Farms Chick Patties

These patties are based upon soy protein concentrate and wheat gluten. In addition, they contain corn oil, yellow corn flour, and corn starch. Oofta.

8. Lean Pockets – Supreme Pizza

The package boasts whole grain, lean meat, and 0 grams trans fat. Although these have come a long way from the original hot pockets, at the end of the day they’re still a pastry, stuffed with mystery meat and plenty of chemical preservatives.

9. Healthy Choice Sweet and Sour Chicken

Frozen peach crisp, tempura battered chicken, sweet and sour sauce, what’s not to love there? Despite this, it packs decidedly un-healthy chemicals, contains 69 grams of carbs and 600 mg of sodium. This particular dish was almost universally slammed among foodies, with one rather salty critic noting that it was virtually impossible to mess up sweet and sour chicken but that Healthy Choice had “achieved the impossible.”

The moral of the story seems to be to avoid processed foods. That eliminates over half of the above products listed, so if you do that; you’re in pretty good shape. Another moral of the story – check food labels. Like Activia yogurt, you’d assume it’s healthy because, well, it’s yogurt. But it has so much sugar in it, as well as artificial sweeteners. Also something to be avoided.

So choose organic when possible, just make sure it’s not processed or pretending to be something that it is not!