Earlier this month on my Facebook page, I asked you to share your biggest “ah-ha” moment when you started to read ingredient lists. I asked this question because I’m curious about what opened your eyes to the processed chemicals the food industry is dumping in our food.
There were over 1,500 responses on Facebook to my question, and I tried to read every single one of them. I found your comments insightful, really encouraging, and some were really funny! I’m glad to see that so many of you are changing your eating habits and reading ingredient lists! I saw several recurring ah-ha moments (the same ones I had when I started my journey), so I am summarizing the top 10 most popular ones here for you to share with your friends and family, just in case they haven’t had these “ah-ha” moments yet. You might even see your own ah-ha moment quoted below! If you didn’t already know about any of these major offenses at the grocery store, this will also give you tips for what to look out for next time you’re shopping.
10 Grocery Store Items You Should Never Buy Again:
1. Pickles & Relish That Contain Artificial Food Dye
- “WHY do they need to add artificial chemical coloring? Same with everything that adds chemical for coloring. It’s just WRONG” ~ Sara
- “Pickles started a food change in my house when I realized my children couldn’t even eat a pickle without eating yellow #4 & #5. Totally changed how we eat!” ~ Tracy
- “Yellow #5 in my Pickles…huh?? Why on God’s green earth is that in there?!!” ~ Carrin
- “There’s Yellow-5 in Mt Olive dill pickles!!” ~ Josh and Erika
- “Food dyes. It’s even in pickles! Really?!?! Couldn’t understand that one. Grandmas pickles were always green and she never used yellow #6” ~ Becky
- “This week it was Vlasic dill pickles, which we usually keep a giant jar of. Why do pickles need food coloring?” ~ Julie
- “Dyes. Especially items like food coloring in pickles. Um, WHY?” ~ Heather
- “Pickles have yellow #6! WTH?? Why??” ~ Amber
- “Why do we insist on putting artificial colors in everything?!! Pickles aren’t supposed to be fluorescent!!! Nature colors things beautifully on its own!” ~ ChelsLyn
- “Food dye in pickles..idk why but it pissed me off” ~ Tina
- “Relish…would never have thought there would be food coloring in relish. Blech!!!” ~ Kim
- “Omg pickles?” ~ Vanessa
Recently I looked at every single jar of pickles in a conventional grocery store, and only found one brand that didn’t contain artificial yellow food dye. Of course, there is no real reason to add dye to pickles, as it’s just used to make them look prettier and gives us no other benefits. Artificial colors are linked to health issues and have been banned or require a warning labels in several other countries – so food manufacturers often take them out of their products in other countries. Most pickles contain Yellow #5 or #6, which have been shown to contribute to childhood behavioral problems. Better Store-Bought Alternative: Real Pickles (brand) organic pickles, Woodstock organic pickles.
2. Canned Soups With MSG!
- “That all my favorite soups have MSGs in them”. ~ Teresa
- “When I compared a cream of chicken soup label to a recipe & realized how basic & easy it is to home-make with only 4 ingredients!…I literally got angry!!” ~ Brandi
- “I ate my usual Dr MacDougalls lentil soup today and then noticed it had “yeast extract” in it. Seriously??? Hidden MSG in “healthy” soup?? Ugh!!!” ~ Andrea
- “High fructose corn syrup in canned and boxed tomato soup. I couldn’t find any available product without sugar, so I had to make my own!” ~ Sara
- “When I realized that the chicken bullion I put in my soup was basically a block of msg.” ~ Kelly
- “Just how awful most canned and boxed foods are. And how extensive the naughty list is. I used to keep “cream of” soups in the pantry and use them in my casseroles. I just can’t bring myself to do that anymore.” ~ Christine
- “Campbell’s chicken and stars soup – shocked it has High fructose corn syrup and MSG! Never giving this to my kids again!” ~ Candice
- “Soy in 90% of soups in grocery stores” ~ Melanie
MSG (aka Monosodium Glutamate) is a really common ingredient in packaged soup, along with hidden MSG ingredients like hydrolyzed protein and autolyzed yeast extract. These flavor enhancers trick your brain into eating more than you should and have been linked to headaches, obesity, depression, and mental disorders. Better Store-Bought Alternative: Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup or make your own like I do. Here’s a recipe for one of my favorites – carrot ginger soup.
3. Salad Dressings That Are Full Of GMO Oils!
- “Salad dressings!! They all have soybean oil!!! And basically how EVERYTHING has soy in it” ~ Sierra
- “Gluten in salad dressings” ~ Davi
- “Yellow food dye in Italian salad dressing. Why?!?!” ~ Neeka
- “Can’t eat salad dressings because of soy/canola oils. I now must get over it and make my own.” ~ Norma
- “MSG is in a lot of foods even salad dressings no wonder I was getting migraines! I’m highly sensitive to it” ~ Caroline
- “That nearly every salad dressing has Xanthan gum or guar gum in it.” ~ Susan
- “SOYBEAN OIL and/ or canola in every single salad dressing or mayonnaise!! We just make our own now.” ~ Melissa
This is why I make my own salad dressing. It’s super easy to whip up a vinaigrette at home to avoid dumping GMO soybean oils all over your healthy salad. You might be surprised to know that even salad dressings that say they are made with olive oil (like Wishbone Olive Oil Vinaigrette) typically contain soybean oil as a main ingredient. Almost all store-bought salad dressings also contain emulsifier ingredients to help them stay blended on the shelf, but don’t do anything good for your health. Better Store-Bought Alternatives: Raw Foodz Salad Dressing (not available everywhere), Hilary’s Eat Well Salad Dressing & Wilderness Family Naturals Salad Dressing. If you are a Food Babe Eating Guide subscriber, you’ll get a new (and easy) salad dressing recipe every month as part of the plan. Check it out here.
4. Bread That Has Way Too Many Nasty Ingredients!
- “Many packaged breads and baked goods contain L-cysteine—a non-essential amino acid made from dissolved human hair (often from China) or duck feathers (mmmm). Food manufacturers use the ingredient as a commercial dough conditioner, meant to change the texture of breads and baked goods.” ~ Arthur
- “High fructose corn syrup in bread.” ~ Sean
- “Color and corn fructose in my 100% whole wheat bread. Argh” ~ Vanessa
- “GMO corn syrup in bread.” ~ Krystl
- “High fructose corn syrup in “light” wheat bread.” ~ Katie
- “Bread! Such a simple food is now a health hazard if purchased in most grocery stores.” ~ Farmhouse Blues Interiors
- “High fructose corn syrup and the long list of ingredients that go into bread.” ~ Arushi
- “Once I started noticing all the products (Baked items/Breads) that have Azodicarbonamide in them. Since quitting eating foods with that my respiratory issues have gone away. SO glad I found out about that horrible, unnecessary ingredient being put in food.” ~ Trae
- “Bread…something you think is a simple staple” ~ Laurie
- “One thing that drives me nuts it bread with 30 ingredients! Wth! It should have maybe 5! Egh!” ~ Jacqueline
- “How about store bought bread?! Can you believe all of the “stuff” that is in it?! Homemade is sooooo much better for you. Time consuming, yes, but way better for you!” ~ Darcy
It’s nearly impossible to find bread at the store without dough conditioners (like the yoga mat chemical azodicarbonamide), added sugars, artificial colors and GMOs – which is ridiculous because it really only takes 4 ingredients to make bread. Although I don’t eat a lot of bread, when I do I don’t want to be subjected to unnecessary and harmful ingredients. So, I generally stick to sprouted grain breads or gluten-free varieties that are made up of primarily seeds and healthy grains like millet and quinoa. Better Store-Bought Alternatives: Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread, Manna Gluten Free Ancient Grains Bread. Here’s a list of more clean ingredient breads.
5. Coffee Creamer That Is Full Of Trans Fat!
- “Coffeemate coffee creamer. Omg???!!!!!!! Switched to organic half and half this week.” ~ Homaira
- “Coffee creamer…..silicon dioxide anyone?????” ~ Miriam
- “Coffee creamer. So gross to even think about how much of that I’ve consumed!” ~ Julie
- “Coffee creamer. I now make my own with all organic ingredients and couldn’t be happier!” ~ Cara
- “Coffee creamer…still breaks my heart!” ~ Crista
- “You’ve opened my eyes with carrageenan..I had no idea! I was drinking it every morning in my organic coffee creamer!” ~ Kate
- “Creamers with carrageenan!!” ~ Brandi
When I found out that Coffee-Mate Non-Dairy Creamer’s primary ingredient was partially hydrogenated oil I was disgusted. Millions of people are dumping deadly trans fat into their coffee every morning. Sure, they only use a bit in their coffee, but would anyone pour themselves a full glass of it? Of course not. Yet, they’ll eventually consume the entire container. This is the perfect example of why I think the motto “Everything in Moderation” is bogus. A FDA loophole allows Coffee-Mate to claim that it has no trans fat because it contains less than 0.5 g. per serving, although their “serving size” is only 1 tablespoon. According to the CDC, trans fats are linked to 7,000 deaths and over 20,000 heart attacks! Better Store-Bought Alternatives: Coconut milk – it’s thick and creamy and most only contain 1 or 2 ingredients if you stick to the culinary version like Natural Value and Native Forest. You can also make your own coconut milk by combining 1/4 cup coconut manna and 4 cups water into a blender. Blend on high for 1-2 mins and keep milk in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
6. Baby Formula That Contains Corn Syrup!
- “Baby formula. I was so upset I gave my kids this after I read what’s in it.” ~ Jennifer
- “Baby formula. For some the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. Ugh !” ~ Mary
- “Baby formula really made me angry when it had to become my daughters main source of food!!” ~ Krista
- “Corn Syrup in organic baby formula” ~ Carolina
- “Baby formula! Poor little ones! The victims of industry.” ~ Alle
- “Domestic baby formula. After I stopped breastfeeding at six months I wanted to find an organic formula that was free from ingredients that I discovered infants should not ingest. I was disgusted by what was included in the ingredients – even organic formula. I now purchase a formula from the U.K. as they don’t allow those same crap ingredients in baby formula.” ~Becky
It’s outrageous that most conventional baby formulas in the store contain GMOs and milk from cows treated with antibiotics or artificial growth hormones. Even organic formulas aren’t perfect, and can contain carrageenan, synthetic preservatives, refined sugars with detectible levels of arsenic, and DHA extracted with hexane. As put in this guest post by Nutrition expert, Charlotte Vallaeys other options include donor milk and this recipe from the Weston A. Price Foundation. Better Store-Bought Alternative: Baby’s Only Organic Formula and HiPP Organic Formula.
7. Canned Tuna That Has Hidden Soy (GMOs)!
- “Canned tuna in water may contain soy.” ~ Jeanne’
- “Soy in cans of solid white albacore tuna. Wtf.” ~ Hillary
- “I can’t believe gmo corn and soy is in everything!!! Please look at tuna. Why does it need soy?” ~ Christie
- “Tuna “packed in water”–which is actually broth, which contains soy!” ~ Diane
- “Soy in everything!! Even my tuna! WTH???” ~ Linz
Tuna is not a main staple in my diet because the practices largely used in the industry aren’t sustainable and are endangering marine species. Couple that with the fact that mainstream tuna brands typically pack their tuna in a soy-based vegetable broth, and not actually in “water” like it says on the front of the can. If you like to occasionally eat tuna, seek out a brand from a sustainable fishery that uses pole & line (and troll-caught) fishing methods, preferably from North American waters and packed without additives in BPA-free cans. When tuna are pole & line caught they are younger and much smaller, so they do not have the high mercury content that is found in most regular tuna. Better Store-Bought Alternative: American Tuna (brand) MSC Certified Sustainably Caught Albacore Tuna and Seafare Wild-Caught Tuna.
8. Soda That Is Full Of Artificial Ingredients!
- “Diet coke (and other diet sodas) being chemical nastiness in a can! Went cold turkey 4 years ago and haven’t been tempted once since that day…when you know better, you do better” ~ Andi
- “Ginger ale isn’t really healthy..all pop (soft drinks) are just chemicals!” ~ Elizabeth
- “Aspartame will cause seizures in those prone to them. For me: No diet coke=no seizures.” ~ Allisa
- “I will also never regret the day I gave up diet coke!!” ~ Katie
- “I had a “lightbulb moment” about the huge bottles of diet coke I’d drink daily. I had no idea that they were robbing me of my bone density. I quit that day and had another bone density test a few months later and it was amazingly wonderful. I never looked back.” ~ Chris
- “Mine was when I saw the women’s heart association label on Diet Coke cans several years ago. Made me think that’s like cigarette companies putting lung association labels on the package. Food/ drinks that come with warnings of what it contains….like gum, diet pop ….fair warning..it’s toxic.” ~ Beth
- “Aspartame. I use to be obsessed with diet coke and thought I was making a better choice cuz it was diet” ~ Denean
- “Hansens “natural” sodas containing artificial sweeteners in the diet varieties.” ~ Amber
- “It wasn’t what I read on a label, but giving up sodas has been an eye opening experience. I get full faster and I have no sugar cravings any more. Although I was drinking diet sodas I am amazed at how that crap was influencing my diet.” ~ Laurie
- “Boiling soda just once. Never drink another one.” ~ Thomas
- “Years ago when I worked in a marine store and sold ‘Fozz’, which is used to remove rust from metal. Then reading the ingredients in Coca Cola, which has the same ingredient: phosphoric acid! I stopped drinking soda from then.” ~ Maggie
A common ingredient in regular soda is high fructose corn syrup, which has been shown to be processed by your body differently than regular cane sugar. According to a 2007 study, high fructose corn syrup contains “astonishingly high levels of reactive carbonyls”, which are not present in table sugar, and these carbonyls are believed to cause tissue damage, and may contribute to the development of diabetes. Even more disgusting is the use of chemical artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and sucralose) in diet drinks, as these have been shown to stimulate your appetite, increase carbohydrate cravings, and promote weight gain. Better Alternatives: Homemade REAL Ginger-Ale, homemade iced tea or Kombucha.
9. Very Controversial Ingredients That Are In Cereal!
- “Aspartame in Fiber One cereal” ~ Erica
- “BHT in so many cereals” ~ Jenny
- “I started noticing BHA & BHT in the kids cereal and various other foods and looked it up. I found out they are carcinogens and banned in just about every country but ours.” ~ Michelle
- “Breakfast cereals….BHT, sugar, preservatives…and many more. GROSS” ~ Rachel
- “Kashi cereal. Wondered what was on it to keep you full. First ingredient is soy. Now what to do with boxes i have. … throw away or donate and let this poison feed someone else? I think i just answered my own question…” ~ Rochelle
- “The amount of sugar in cereals I thought were healthy, & serving to my kids!” ~ Traci
- “Paint thinner in children’s cereal” ~ Kim
- “TSP in cereal!” ~ Michelle
- “Life cereal has RED FOOD DYE?” ~ Heather
- “Seeing BHT in almost all cereals. What? WHY?” ~ Don and Jen
- “Six different names for sugar (sucrose) in the ingredients list for a cereal, to hide the fact the main ingredient is SUGAR.” ~ Emilia
- “Fiber One original cereal. I just couldn’t believe I ate that junk for so many years almost daily with skim cow milk. Now I read the ingredients in all their new products and just hope nobody buys them.” ~ Jeezus
To think that this childhood morning staple is loaded with artificial colors, GMOs, preservatives, refined grains and sugar, makes me sick. One of the worst ingredients in many cereals is the preservative BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene). It’s a known human allergen that has also caused tumor growth in animal studies. Due to serious health concerns, it’s been banned or restricted in several countries, yet it’s widely used in cereals here in the U.S. Better Alternatives: Oatmeal, Parfait Porridge, Two Moms In The Raw Plain Grain Free Cereal (gluten-free), Homemade Granola, Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal & Qi’a from Nature’s Path.
10. Juice That Is Full of Junk!
- “My 9 year old went from a juicebox a day to water. She sometimes asks for juice but when I look at the ingredients i put it right back.” ~ Ana
- “Corn syrup!! They put this in juices. Lol.” ~ Lorraine
- “Naked juice, just crushed!” ~ Tawny
- “Pasteurization kills all the benefits of orange juice and real fruit juice :(“ ~ Carol
- “‘Natural Flavoring’ = corn and/or corn derivative to which I am highly allergic. I am not allergic to apples or cranberries; however, I had to take a Benadryl after drinking Mott’s-advertised and Ocean Spray-advertised 100% pure juices. I reported this to the FDA requesting that these juice companies cease advertising their juices as 100% pure.” ~ Diane
- “Most orange juices now have natural flavors! That is just crap! We don’t need this crap in our orange juice!” ~ Nan
- “Naked juice… Something that’s supposed to be great for you is full of junk.” ~ Kate
- “All the crap in kids’ “juice” drinks.” ~ Heather
Most of the juice at the store is just glorified sugar water. They’re often made from concentrates, which means that the fresh juice has been heated down to syrup and reconstituted with water. During the concentration process, natural nutrients and flavors are lost, so they add those back in artificially. Even “100% Juice” often contains proprietary natural flavors that may be derived from anything natural, including animals. The juice is then heated up a second time to be pasteurized, which also denatures enzymes and destroys nutrients. So, after all that processing, it’s really not worth the money. Better Alternatives: Suja Essentials Line that is cold-pressed and organic or try making your own, this Ravishing Red Juice is a great one to start with! Also if you are looking for alternatives to Gatorade, please check out these ideas.
Help Others Avoid These Pitfalls – Share This Post!
I hope this post inspires you to choose better alternatives at the grocery store or to start making your own homemade versions of this overly processed food! If you know someone who could benefit from these swaps, please share this post with them. Thank you for changing the world with me one person, one product and one company at a time.
P.S. If you like investigations like this, you will love my books. In my #1 best selling book The Food Babe Way – I teach you even more ways you can break free from the hidden toxins in your food, lose weight, look years younger and get healthy in just 21 days. In my 2nd book, Feeding You Lies, I blow the lid off of the lies we’ve been fed about the food we eat – lies about its nutrient value, effects on our health, label information, and even the very science we base our food choices on. And, my first cookbook, Food Babe Kitchen, contains over 100 mouthwatering recipes to show you how delicious and simple it is to eat healthy, easy, real food. Available anywhere books are sold.