Once I began reading labels, especially for the ingredient list (because the nutrition label is often not enough), my shopping changed dramatically. My general rule of thumb is that I want to eat things with just a few ingredients (no more than I would use if I prepared it at home) that I can actually pronounce or have some idea of what they are and why they have been put into this product.
I'll begin with a company that I admire: Ocean Spray. I like the way they do business, that they produce primarily cranberry products (which almost no one else does). But, their "Cranberry Juice Cocktail" contains only 27% juice, and not all of that from cranberries (they add vegetable concentrate for color). They have other products which are excellent and are 100% juice (again, be sure to read the labels to know which juices are actually used). As a side note, I can't imagine straight, unadulterated 100% cranberry juice would be palatable to many in the American consuming public. So, I don't mind that they add other juices, so long as they are actually juices!
Here's some sad news: many things that "look" healthy or are marketed as "natural" are no such thing. The only way to know that is to read the label. For instance, Sunny Delight commercials show a beautiful, healthy, fit family enjoying life and drinking "Sunny D." To the left is the ingredient list from their website. It's water and corn syrup (sugar) with less than 2% of juices and other stuff. Even some of the other stuff makes no sense to me: cornstarch? canola oil? and the greatest of unknowns "natural flavors" - what in the world is that? I'm certain that they don't elaborate only because it would make us either afraid or angry!
I have been a fan of Crystal Light for many years, and I do still drink it sometimes (less often, now that I have this information). The little "bottle-sized" packets fit in my purse and make it easy for me to have something besides water. I found a blog about Crystal Light Pure from a great site called "Wellness Without Pity," and the title of the blog is "Diary of a Reluctant Athlete." Sounds like my kind of people! The front of the box shows fruit, a very "natural" beauty, and a guarantee of "no artificial flavors" and "no preservatives". Moreover, it claims to be sweetened with sugar and truvia (a variation of stevia sweetener; I'm already working on a post about sweeteners... stay tuned). As if these sweeteners are good for us, "pure"??? Look at the FIRST ingredient: SUGAR! And, although these may be natural ingredients, they don't sound very natural to me. I wonder what great-grandma would sat to this list? I can just picture her saying, "Honey, just eat the purple carrots instead!"
I want to be sure to include this item in my "do not drink" list: energy drinks. I'm fortunate that these came about after my days in college, or surely I would be as hooked on them as I was on diet soda. Does anyone need to say out loud that these are NOT GOOD FOR YOUR BODY?!!??!! In addition to the sugars and preservatives, the caffeine alone can kill you. In the spirit of balance of life, I don't completely rule them out. There may come a night when I have to drive somewhere for hours when I haven't slept and there are no other choices available to me in the whole world... then I would consider having one of these. But, I've seen people consume energy drinks like their bodies would like to consume water. There are even Monster Juice drinks. It contains 10% juice. Juice Drink = 10% juice. Hmmm... Are you surprised? I'm not.
Wait, it gets even better! During the Superbowl commercials, we were introduced to the new versions of Mountain Dew's Kickstart. Have you heard of these? First launched in 2013 as "Breakfast Drinks," the HuffingtonPost2013 wrote this:
PepsiCo said it doesn't consider Kickstart to be an energy drink, noting that it still has far less caffeine than drinks like Monster and Red Bull and none of the mysterious ingredients that have raised concerns among lawmakers and consumer advocates.
Mysterious ingredients? A copy of the nutrition label is to your right. What do you think? Now they have introduced two new flavors, and Beverage Daily writes:
PepsiCo brand Mountain Dew Kickstart tells us its two new flavor lines with higher juice content, coconut water and slightly less caffeine are targeted at a core ‘cross cultural millennial male’ consumer....The new drinks (pictured below) contain Mountain Dew, 10% fruit juice, coconut water and 68mg of caffeine; they are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Ace-K and Sucralose, and contain 60 calories per 12oz can. The nutrition facts panel is pictured.... Interestingly, original Kickstart is sold in larger 16oz (473ml) cans and is made from 5% juice; it contains 92mg of caffeine and no coconut water.Need I say any more?
Cool commercial, but here's a clue: that world doesn't really exist, and if it does... you have bigger problems that just what you drink... I mean, really...