Don’t make Super Bowl Sunday a bad food event

Posted by
February 2, 2012

The Super Bowl is pretty much the close of the ‘excuse-to-eat-junk’ season that started with the “holidays.” I’ve even heard it referred to as “the biggest food ‘holiday’ that doesn’t feature a turkey.” So now that this big eating day is right around the bend, we at Food Identity Theft would like to help you avoid turning what should be a fun event into a bad-food day.

Many of the traditional components of a Super Bowl Sunday feast contain the absolute worst ingredients, but are super-easy to swap out for decent ones, starting with:

Chips

Here’s a rule of thumb: most “flavored” chips will harbor some really bad ingredients. Example; the ever popular Doritos Nacho Cheese, which contain not only undisguised monosodium glutamate, but  six sources of hidden MSG, as well as three artificial colors and two partially hydrogenated oils (the main source of  trans fat). The sales pitch for these unhealthy chips is equally bad: The DORITOS brand is constantly creating new ways to give you immersive and memorable experiences, to put you in control of the things you love most. If anyone can explain that line, please let me know.

A healthy swap is Garden of Eatin’ nacho cheese tortilla chips. Garden of Eatin’ also offers a full line of plain corn chips and good-ingredient taco shells.

Dips

Dips are another hotbed of bad ingredients. Frito Lay brand, which makes an extensive lineup of dips, and claims on its website that “it can’t get much better than Frito-Lay chips and dips!” is more than happy to sell you a variety of mislabeled “No MSG” and “natural” products. Tostitos Spicy Nacho Cheese dip, for example, which the company website claims has “No MSG,”  lists yeast extract and whey protein concentrate as ingredients. Both contain free glutamic acid (hidden MSG), as well as several artificial colors.

A much better choice is Newman’s Own Black Bean & Corn Salsa, containing real food ingredients. Or, make your own dip. (And no, I don’t mean with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup mix, either.) How about some home-made guacamole or salsa?

And remember – while there are numerous “organic” and “natural” dips on the market, you can’t necessarily trust a product just because it’s organic, and certainly not because its labeled “all-natural.” Always read the ingredient label, NOT just the “nutrition facts” or any other shelf-tag labeling or front-of -package claim. Only the ingredient list will tell you what’s really in a food product.

And whatever you do, don’t let any Velveeta “cheese” into your home!

Soda

If you’re among the multitudes of folks who just can’t do without soda on Super Bowl Sunday but are trying hard to avoid high fructose corn syrup, here’s where some quick label reading will really pay off. Pepsi now makes a “throwback” version without HFCS, And “Mexican” Coca-Cola, which is sweetened with sugar, if not available in your area, can be purchased from Amazon.com,  Or, for a gourmet treat, you might try some micro-brewed or specialty sodas that are also HFCS-free.

Corn Sugar – been there, done that, didn’t work

The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) seems to be going full-steam (and dollars) ahead in sending out its “corn sugar” and “sugar is sugar” messaging across the airwaves.

The original CRA $50-million campaign, begun around 2008 and referred to as a “full-fledged media assault” in a trade pub article the following year, is once again popping up all over the place. The campaign, from mega-agency DDB in Chicago, was described by CRA President Audrae Erickson (described in Advertising Age as a former USDA economist) as “…a nationwide multimedia and advertising campaign targeted principally at moms, given the role they play in buying food.”

Being a fan of the series Mad Men, I have often imagined Don Draper getting the corn account and dreaming up this whole “corn sugar” scheme in a smoky conference room. Looks like I was right – not about Don, but, as they say, “in real life.”

Turns out, agency guru Al Ries, a veteran of the Mad Men era, had the corn account back when HFCS was first making inroads into the sweetener market. His client back then wasn’t the CRA, but the giant Corn Products International (CPI).

As Ries tells the story, in the mid-70s, as CPI was “planning an assault” on the sweetener market with its new product, “55% high fructose corn syrup.”

“That name is going to cause you problems. Why don’t you call it ‘corn sugar’?” Ries recalls saying.

And they tried that. First with a series of advertisements showing sugar cane, a sugar beet and an ear of corn, with the headline “consider all three types of sugar.”

Then they took the sugar charade to the Food and Drug Administration, which is where the campaign ended. “You can’t call it sugar, we were firmly told”  by the FDA, Ries said.

Fast forward 35 plus years and here we are again. This time Big Corn is spending a lot more bucks to get “corn sugar” accepted, but one difference is this time you can help stop it. Send your comments on this corn sugar hoax to the FDA by clicking here. Your voice might just make the difference in having the FDA stop dragging its feet and reject the CRA name-change petition for HFCS once and for all.

And as a side benefit, it will also get rid of all those annoying ads.

Linda Bonvie –  FoodIdentityTheft.com