Jason’s Deli is one of the places my family loves to eat. When I would come home from college to visit, we would go there all the time. We’d have sandwiches, soup, salad, those little free mini corn and gingerbread muffins and free ice cream at the end of every visit. The prices were economical which suited my Dad’s frugality and the location was super convenient. But as soon as I started figuring out what was in restaurant food, my trips to Jason’s Deli stopped. I didn’t really have a specific reason other than the fact that home prepared meals tasted better and made me feel great – much better than the days I would go out to eat.
Jason’s Deli is a very popular choice for a lot of people out there, not just my family, so I thought it would be crucial to investigate their food. Besides, many of you have asked for this specific investigation on facebook for quite some time now… so with no further delay, here’s what I found out.
On paper Jason’s Deli appears to have your health in their best interest. Jason’s Deli was the first major restaurant chain to eliminate transfat and high fructose corn syrup. They recently claimed to have eliminated MSG too (we will address that later) and 1/5 of Jason’s Deli menu is organic – an absolutely staggering statistic considering the size of the menu. They also do not use any artificial colors – another amazing feat considering all the restaurants that still do.
So this begs the question – What other ingredients should you watch out for at Jason’s Deli? What should you still be concerned about? And what’s REAL FOOD and what’s not?
Trying not to be overly exhaustive, I requested the ingredients of a sampling of some of the most popular items on Jason’s Deli’s menu. Requesting the ingredients was easy compared to some of the investigations I have done in the past. There are a couple of ways you can get your hands on the ingredients. You can call the headquarters and request them, email them or ask in the store. If you ask for the ingredients in the store, it is a quite laborsome for the employees as they have to dig for the packages to show you the ingredients on actual boxes. Unfortunately, they do not have a list in a neatly organized binder. During the several requests I made using all of these methods, Jason’s Deli employees (in the stores and at the headquarters) were amazingly cooperative and made sure I got all the answers I was looking for – a huge win in my book. However, posting their ingredients online for everyone to see would be an even bigger win in transparency, especially considering their tag line “We are all about healthy food.” Until then, I’ve posted the ingredients that I inquired about below, so this can serve as your online guide until they do…. (please note: the ingredients highlighted in red are either potential genetically engineered or GMO ingredients, harmful additives or preservatives – in other words, things no one should willingly want to eat.)
***Update: After releasing this investigation, Jason’s Deli posted all ingredients online with an Interactive Nutrition Menu – a huge win in transparency!***
Jason’s Deli Ingredients(Sampling of Menu Items)
- Artesian 9-grain Bread – The first ingredient is refined white flour – (you can tell when you see that vitamins and minerals are added back into the flour and the word “whole” is missing from the front of the word “wheat”). Refined white flour is basically empty calories with zero nutrition, but thankfully they add in a bunch of other whole grains to round out the bread.
- Whole Grain Bread – Has several questionable ingredients added to it – GMOs in the form of soybean oil, soy lecithin, dextrose etc., caramel powder (which is just a powdered form of caramel color that is considered a carcinogen), and preservatives, along with questionable natural flavors that trick your brain into enjoying a processed product like this more than you should.
- Croissant – This bread definitely doesn’t come from France considering all the preservatives and dough conditioners it contains, especially the ingredient “azodicarbonamide” which is banned in Europe and if you get caught using it in Singapore you are fined $450,000 dollars – the substance is linked to asthma and allergies.
- Organic Wheat Wrap – Definitely the best choice on the bread menu.
- Wild Sockeye Salmon – Any restaurant serving wild salmon over farmed salmon deserves praise, but the additives used here are dreadful. Several ingredients are genetically engineered and “spice extractives” can be a hidden form of MSG.
- Ham – Carrageenan is the most concerning ingredient here, first of all what’s a seaweed by-product even doing in ham? I found out it is used as a “gelling agent” that mimics fat that you would normally find in meat. For low fat meat products, manufacturers add it to “improve texture.” Carrageenan when ingested can start to degrade in the gastrointestinal tract and in the liver and turn into a carcinogen, resulting in a serious inflammatory agent that also can cause intestinal abnormalities.
- All Natural Chicken Breast – One thing I would like to mention here is that just because a meat is labeled “natural” doesn’t mean it’s free from GMOs. By the looks of the ingredients here, this would be the best meat option to get, however you have to realize the chickens were likely fed GMO corn and soy – not the healthiest diet. Personally I would avoid meat all together and go vegetarian for this reason.
- Roast Beef, Chicken Salad – I would avoid both of these choices – there are GMOs, hidden MSG (hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed corn gluten, and/or autolyzed yeast extract) and caramel color. What’s so bad about caramel color, you ask? It’s not the type of caramel you make at home by cooking sugar. This caramel color is manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creates carcinogenic compounds proven to cause liver tumors, lung tumors, and thyroid tumors in rats and mice.
- Chili, Southwest Chicken Chili, Organic Vegetable Soup – This is where Jason’s Deli really messes up. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say their “No MSG” message in their marketing is a total lie if you read between the lines. As you have noticed above, there is hidden MSG in several different meat products, as well as all of their soups – including the organic vegetable soup in the form of “autolyzed yeast paste.” The amount of MSG that restaurants can put in your food is not regulated and having a “No MSG” label is extremely misleading if they replace MSG with other forms that cause the same health issues. MSG is an excitotoxin that “if given in large enough doses” can excite brain cells to death. MSG can cause adverse reactions in some people including “skin rashes, itching, hives, nausea, vomiting, migraine headaches, asthma, heart irregularities, depression and even seizures.” Additionally, MSG is an ingredient added to different recipes so your brain remembers a taste combined with the smell of a food. Food scientists use it to create addiction. Bottom line, it doesn’t belong in food considering the obesity crisis in this country.
- “Homemade Ranch” – Looking at the ingredients above, you can see that calling this dressing homemade is a complete joke. I don’t have maltodextrin or carrageenan sitting around in my pantry, do you?
- Organic Balsamic – The best option for dressing
- Organic French Dressing – Another good option, but not a fan of natural flavoring as mentioned above.
- Mac & Cheese – Light years ahead of Kraft Mac & Cheese, but still concerning since the cheese used is not guaranteed to be hormone and antibiotic free.
- Guacamole – Clean of additives. I would use this as a salad dressing.
- Organic Corn Chips – I found out they use Garden of Eatin’ brand chips, which are GMO free. The only issue I have with these is that they use canola oil, which is not a healthy oil. Over-consumption of oils like canola are causing an abundance of Omega 6 fatty acids in our diets. The imbalance of Omega 6 fatty acids increases the risk of inflammation, heart disease, obesity, and prostate and bone cancer.
- Pickle – This was a huge bummer. I was excited there were no artificial colors but bummed that the pickles contain sodium benzoate, one of the absolute worst preservatives out there. The Mayo Clinic reported that this preservative increases hyperactivity in children. Also, when sodium benzoate combines with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it can form benzene, a carcinogen that damages DNA in cells and accelerates aging.
- Chocolate Chip Cookie & Fudge Brownie (see picture below) – Both of these baked sweets have propylene glycol, the same ingredient that you winterize cars with – antifreeze, and the same ingredient that lubricates condoms. This is definitely not an ingredient I want to end my meal with!
- Ice Cream – Besides the carrageenan already discussed above, artificial vanilla flavor is manufactured in a factory without using any real vanilla beans, instead it is a by-product of the wood pulp industry. Polysorbate 80, which is in both flavors, is linked to infertility in mice, an increased risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and tumor growth or recurrence in patients with certain types of cancer. An article published about polysorbate 80 found that the agent could cause pregnant woman to go into anaphylactic shock and is harmful to patients with Crohn’s disease. Lastly, the milk products used are not hormone or antibiotic free, this should be enough reason to leave Jason’s Deli without eating the free ice cream.
Given all this information, the obvious question now is…
WHAT WOULD I GET AT JASON’S DELI?
Straight off the menu, I would feel pretty good about ordering the Nutty Mixed Up Salad (likely without the chicken) and Spinach Veggie Wrap. Also I would excitingly order all the organic vegetables currently available (which are: spinach, mixed greens, apples, carrots and peas) at the salad bar and top it off with a huge side of guacamole and hummus. I’d also get the steamed veggies if I were feeling like I wanted something warm to eat. (Note the zucchini that is offered in the steamed veggies may be GMO since it is not organic.)
For the kids in your life (if ordering off the kid’s menu), I’d go with the Organic Peanut Butter & Jelly or the Organic Grilled Cheese but with organic whole wheat wrap or 9 grain artisanal wheat bread vs. the whole wheat bread that has additives (as discussed above). Organic carrots and organic apples on the side are a wonderful accompaniment too!
I know I stopped going to Jason’s Deli a while back but given the opportunity to dine there again, I wouldn’t think twice. It’s a no brainer – Jason’s Deli blows away the competition when it comes to quick, easy and organic meals without having to visit a grocery store.
If you think this post can help someone make the right decision the next time they visit Jason’s Deli – please share it with them. I want this information to be out there helping as many people as possible who would not otherwise know or understand the ingredients they are eating.
Thank you in advance for spreading the word.
5/1 Update: Just received the ingredients in the famous “free” mini muffins at the salad bar…I would stay far, far away!
136 responses to “Jason’s Deli: What’s Healthy & What’s Not”
What about the gluten-free option on the Udi’s bread? Jason’s has normal slices-not the little one’s we buy at the Teet! It is a treat for me to actually not eat a salad or have a lettuce wrap sandwich.
Dear Food Babe, I love your blogs and post on facebook, but when reading your recent article on Jasons Deli. I noticed that you have several advertisers on the right side of the page and one of those advertisements is for Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. Did I miss a post or blog on the ingredients of this product? I understand that you need revenue so that we as fans don’t have to pay for your research and great information you provide. Just wondering
Food Babe has no control over what ads are shown on her site – it’s through Google, and the ads that are shown are usually based on your own search history and sites you have visited, or it could be a setting on the advertiser’s part looking for blogs related to food.
Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. I have a wellness residential center outside of Nashville Tn. We help people with cancer and other health challenges. My father died of cancer in 1999 so I have dedicated my life to helping others learn your body can heal naturally. I am a cancer survivor for 27 years. I love your web site and all your information. I would be very interested in talking with you.
They offer gluten-free bread as an option I order.
Thank you, FB for another factual analysis of another popular eatery. I’m encouraged by this info to try Jason’s deli with the knowledge you have provided here.
I would argue that the guacamole isn’t a guaranteed safe option because of the last ingredient “spices”. If I remember correctly, “spices” is another word that MSG can be hiding behind…(from the Excitotoxins book). Really we don’t know what spices, and are those organic or doused in pesticides? This is really quite exhausting to find truly acceptable options, which is why I only eat in restaurants if the alternative is fainting because I didn’t bring a snack.
We were stunned to see what little is left to eat at Jason’s….that fits our OK 80% list we carry..with us..so we will go with the salads w/out the chicken…but we really appreciate you persistence to show what is in their food.!! We are very pleased this info is now in our dirty dozen misty..however each day we add more to the list and we have changed it to the No Go 500!! Thanks we love you!!
This is one of my favorite places to eat. I always stick to the salad bar and nothing else. I am content eating strictly vegetarian without having any sweets! Thanks for the heads up though!
I ate at Jason’s deli this weekend.. Ate only the salad bar, two gingerbread muffins and a bit of ice cream. Within 30 minutes got intense diarrhea, do they have sulfites on the salad bar?
Hi Erica – I don’t do “buffet” style food, including salad bars because I feel they are just germ pools. Consider people cough and sneeze into their hands, then touch the serving utensils to serve themselves – not to mention there is possible contamination if they sneeze and cough while they are actually at the buffet/salad bar. I have always been freaked out by them!
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What organic jam/jelly would you recommend?
Jason’s is anything but a deli
Sorry, Indy barely has pizza and yes, I am from east coast with real subs, pizza, deli. Closest thing here is Tow Yard Brewing (for those of you who think Boar’s Head is quality), and Goose The Market.
I’d strongly recommend sticking with the New York Yankee on toasted white bread with spicy mustard. Yum, yum! Who orders salad at a deli?! Also, the french onion soup is awesome. Bon appetit.
Wow, this was really good. Please do some more of these articles including some more chain and/or local restaraunts!
I live in a small town in the south. I would consider myself fortunate if I could go to a Jason’s Deli for lunch and yet I see all these super critical comments about it. The few grocery stores in my area offer a very limited supply of organic food. Most of the time the small selection is half rotten. What do you do when faced with an organic half rotten puny cucumber or a big beautiful conventional cucumber? What is the better choice? Eating out is not a choice because the big restaurants in my town are Mcdonalds or Subway. I have two choices for grocery shopping which are Walmart & Brookshires. I think Brookshires has an even less selection of organic products than walmart. At either place the few things you can buy organic are going to be rotten. My nearest Whole Foods is an hours drive away. I moved here from Denver and the one Whole Foods in the state of Arkansas could fit into one tiny corner of the Denver stores. The last time I went they were out of chicken & ground beef. We have a Good Earth store abour 45 min. from here but they have a very limited selection. Food Babe, how do you eat healthy in these circumstances?
Be on the lookout for regular grocery stores when you go out. Each one in a chain has different things. You should see the difference among just the Tom Thumbs (Safeway) in the DFW area. Ingles is in the south and the one in Thomaston GA where my daughter lives has an excellent produce section. Talk to the store managers, they want to please. Brookshire’s was listed years ago for the organic corn thins that come from Australia.
Hi, not sure where you moved to, but I have been surprised and cheered to find foods with less preservatives and junk at some of the offbeat groceries you might normally not visit. Small chains like Food Depot, Aldi, and in neighborhoods you might not usually visit. Check these out and read labels and on store brands. I have been impressed with these discoveries.
I appreciate your article. I had cancer twice & leaned on western medicine along with their support of eating the underlining unhealthy food that is recommended. The 3rd time I got cancer the Lord led me to not have my prostate cut out. Getting thy vessel healthy by using homepathic methods of destressing, increasing my immune system and eating undefile greedy corporate food. I also caught mention of Illuminati by a post up above. It starts there that the elite look at us like we are the herd. I learned not to eat like the herd. And there are those that don’t care to hear about my organic alkaline diet. I was there before I investigated food label ingredients on line. Thank you for your efforts in conveying the truth. The Truth will set you free. In Jesus’ name God blesd you & Happy Easter!
Love this!!! My fiancé swears Jason’s Deli is the healthiest restaurant in our town! I noticed they took down all of their “organic” signs. I found your article by researching this. Great work!
I’m curious about the hard boiled eggs on the salad bar. My daughter is not allergic to eggs but is sensitive to preservatives. She always seems to break out after consuming the boiled eggs from Jason’s Deli. I know some eggs that are peeled and sold in stores do contain preservatives. Any info? We love Jason’s Deli and want to stay informed about the best choices available.
For some months now I have been going to Jason’s once a week ever since a friend boasted they were the healthiest salad place. I always do the salad bar. I’m worried about germs but hopefully one can cope with that instead of the poison in the foods served elsewhere. I discovered your blog because I became concerned about if the vegetables are washed and whether with chemicals. I’m also concerned about whether the dressings are freshly made and if they are healthy. Your article didn’t seem to address these issues. Please can you provide info on these concerns.
Cassandra Bradley / I would recommend fnindig a naturopath doctor who can help you safely get off those mediactions. Neuropathy would be the hardest of those issues to cure from my experience but not impossible! Do you know if it was caused by the diabetes or by the medications you were on? I know many medications can lead to neuropathy. For every single other thing listed I have known plenty of people who have switched to natural products (some food, some supplements) to take care of the issue rather than prescription medication. A naturopath doctor has been to full medical school, just as your doctor who seems to be one of the typical ones to prescribe a pill for everything rather than addressing the root of the issue, AND has been to full natural school. They know both sides of the spectrum whereas a regular doctor is mostly taught how to medicate versus how to heal. Eating organic is still beneficial to your health. Most health problems that people encounter are a reaction to either the foods, or so called foods, they are putting into their bodies, to other chemicals and toxins they are being exposed to in the environment, or a combination. I’m going to share a link with you for a company called Nature’s Purest. I do not sell these products nor am I endorsed by them but I have known SO many people who have successfully switched to their natural formulas (cholesterol, heart health/blood pressure, glucose factor for blood sugar levels, etc), have been able to get off all the dangerous medications they were taking and it works better than the prescriptions did for them!In most cases, once people successfully change their eating habits to real food without all the sugar and harmful things added and have detoxed their bodies they will no longer face many of the issues you mentioned. I’d definitely start looking into fnindig a good naturopath doctor!
Seriously bringing up an issue with the “Organic Corn Chips”?! Why and how much more picky and rigid can one get? If they are organic they should be fine as advised by many. C’mon.
Also, what do you say of the hummus at Jason’s Deli which is found at the buffett?
Thanks for the time and would like to carry on in a balanced, regular way while also being cognizant, yet not neurotic while eating out and while being a Vegan.
Thanks and I am sure you would understand.
Just a point here as I have seen this phrase repeated elsewhere “Both of these baked sweets have propylene glycol, the same ingredient that you winterize cars with – antifreeze,” the actual component in anitifreeze is Ethelyne Glycol.
Dear Food Babe
I am allergic to MSG and I ate at Jason’s Deli tonight and my heart started racing 15-20 after finishing my California Club, this had happened to me after going out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant the day before and I immediately knew what and why this was happening… Thanks for your blog!!
It is so sad to read these comments from people whose metabolism and constitution are so weak. I eat everything, good and bad, but in moderation and I am in fairly good health.
There must be another reason why there are people who have problems with their food intake. I do understand that highly processed food is truly not good for you, but I have a bite now an then to appease my taste buds.
Just enjoyed a yummy spinach veggie wrap! Thanks for the recommendation!
FYI, the link where Jason’s Deli supposedly posted all their ingredients says “Access Denied” when I try to access it.
Would love to see an update of this article if you have the time if anything has changed with their menu or ingredients. 🙂 We eat there a lot because ours has free kids’ meals on Wednesday nights.
What about the little toast on the salad bar? It’s soaked in some type of oil. How do they prepare this?