So you're ready to give up high fructose corn syrup...

>> Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In case you missed it the first time around, my Snack Time post on edamame was featured as a guest post on Food with Kid Appeal. Thanks, Jenna!

I don't like to push my food agenda on other people. But this blog, well, it's all about us giving up HFCS, so if you're here, chances are you've already taken the plunge and expunged it from your life, or you're curious about what in the world you eat if you don't do HFCS, or you've read some recent study about HFCS and are curious about this strange ingredient, or maybe you're thinking of eliminating or reducing the amount of HFCS in your own diet. This post is for those of you in that last group.

Why eliminate HFCS in the first place? Our journey was spurred by concern of over consuming fructose. Since then, I've found that the quality of our diet has improved upon giving up HFCS. Giving up HFCS made us give up a lot of junk and switch to higher quality foods. We think about what we're consuming more. With two young kids to think of, eating higher quality foods (which usually translates to fresher and less processed) and teaching them to like those foods is really our biggest motivator. Last, it's nice to not worry about what the latest study says about HFCS - whether it's health concerns from consuming HFCS or a contamination scare. We went cold turkey on HFCS consumption in our house last June, and we don't regret it.

How do you get started on eliminating HFCS from your diet? I can tell you what we did. We started by resolving to not buy anymore foods containing HFCS (and by we, I really mean the frugal me). But then we (and by we, I mean my husband, who is whole-heartedly along for this ride) decided to go more hardcore and completely cleaned out our pantry and refrigerator of products containing HFCS. It was tricky at first finding replacement foods for some of the must-have items like ketchup, but now all is good. Our HFCS-free diet is second hand now.

Don't be afraid of ingredient lists! I'm an ingredient reader. I have been since my son was a babe and had infant food intolerances. As a chemical engineer, I'm actually a little fascinated by what goes into our food and am not scared of ingredient lists - you shouldn't be either! More and more, I think that it's important for us to know what we're eating and to understand what the ingredients in our foods are. I've spent much of my life blindly eating my food, but no more! I want to know what I'm eating. I want to be informed.

But I digress...if you want to give up HFCS, be prepared to also become an ingredient reader. Flip that box of bread crumbs over and take a quick scan of the ingredients (or better yet, make your own). Take a gander at the ingredient list of that jug of juice before you put it in your cart. HFCS is in strange places.

Now that we've been HFCS-free for three quarters of a year, it seems old hat now. It seems like such a hard, daunting task in the beginning, but it really hasn't been bad. I mindlessly scan ingredients of new products (and often of old standbys) before buying. I instinctively avoid certain types of products and can usually predict when something will have HFCS in it or not. Even now, though, we're occasionally surprised by a product that contains HFCS.

So, what are you waiting for? Whether you go all out like we did or simply reduce the amount of HFCS you consume, get started! You won't regret it!

And if you have an ingredient or a food or food issue question you'd like to see addressed here, let me know! I love it when readers and friends pose questions - especially if I don't know the answer. Our journey is just beginning, and the more questions you ask, the more we all learn!


beanjeepin February 3, 2009 at 5:08 AM  

Is there such a thing as HFCS-free (not homemade) sweet pickles? Or chocolate syrup? I know that's asking a lot...

cathy February 3, 2009 at 6:25 AM  

Beanjeepin - I've found a couple of chocolate syrups that are HFCS free. They don't taste quite the same as HFCS-laden Hershey's, but they don in a pinch. Look here: and here: for reviews.

I have NOT found a HFCS-free sweet pickle yet! But, I've had great luck just adding a little sugar to my regular dill pickle relish to make my own sweet pickles. More here:

It's obvious that I need a search function and labels on my post. I got a little lazy with my blog redesign and never finished it. Look for a search function in a few days!

Thanks for the questions!

laura February 3, 2009 at 6:55 AM  

I think you are really wise to have gone cold turkey. I have a favorite cranberry juice that contains HFCS and little motivation to ditch it because I've given it a free pass, so to speak. It's always a "next time" thing.

jenny February 3, 2009 at 7:07 AM  

I'm new to your blog, but am really interested in going HFCS-free. Stupid question b/c I'm a newbie to this, but is regular corn syrup that same as HFCS? Some ingredients list corn syrup and not HFCS, so just wondering if it's the same and need to toss those too?

Lori February 3, 2009 at 7:20 AM  

Such a great re-cap of your journey. I'm doing much better (with the help of your blog) at eliminate HFCS. Now, mine usually comes from those random cravings of candy or something similar. It has actually been easier for me being abroad because it isn't used here in Brazil (yet) that I can find.

I guess my question looks to the future. Sometimes I feel a bit hopeless with this whole corn surplus problem and HFCS, much like I did when I worked in community health and obesity. How are we going to change the use of HFCS in products? It is such a massive, powerful business.

I do believe our small changes make a difference, but I worry for those who don't have the extra funds to buy the foods without HFCS. There are lots of choices out there, but some are more expensive. (Speaking of that, have you seen an increase in your grocery bill since the switch?)

I would love to see a day when we don't have to make a choice because it is no longer in food. :)

Mark February 3, 2009 at 7:44 AM  

What a post! Your journey is an inspiration! Thanks for sharing!

cathy February 3, 2009 at 8:24 AM  

Laura - Yes, cold turkey was good for us.

Jenny - Welcome! Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are different. Corn syrup is all glucose, which is readily processed by our bodies. HFCS is corn syrup that has been further processed to make it about a 50/50 mixture of glucose and fructose. If you're looking to move away from processed foods, you WILL want to avoid corn syrup as it is a very processed food. I wrote a brief post on corn syrup back at the beginning of our journey:

Oh - and one thing that I'm still pondering is where plain corn syrup stands in the whole mercury mess. Hydrochloric acid is used in corn syrup production, so I think that the possibility of mercury contamination is there. (Though contamination would probably be even less than is found in HFCS because caustic soda doesn't appear to be used in corn syrup production. HFCS contamination is already very small, so no need to panic!) I hope that the FDA or some entity will address corn syrup purity in the future as well as HFCS purity.

cathy February 3, 2009 at 8:29 AM  

Lori - You ask GREAT questions! It does feel hopeless at times, but it also feels like a shift is happening. It feels like people and companies are shifting away from HFCS. How to change our corn economy? I don't know. I think that our grassroots efforts though is a start.

And yes, products without HFCS tend to be more expensive. I've noticed food prices declining as fuel prices have declined, so our grocery bill has stabilized as of late.

Another thing that helps our grocery bill a bit is making things from scratch. I know that not everyone has the time or inclination to bake goodies from scratch, but you can really get a lot of bang for your buck making snacks from scratch.

cathy February 3, 2009 at 8:31 AM  

Mark - Thanks! You're one of my biggest cheerleaders, and I appreciate it!

Blake February 3, 2009 at 9:09 AM  

Great job with eliminating HFCS. My wife and I haven't gone cold turkey, but we mostly avoid it. Thanks for sharing with all of us the journey of being HFCS-free!

Jehnie February 3, 2009 at 9:12 AM  

We haven't gone cold-turkey. But I'm constantly surprised at what I find in my pantry. We're doing so much better than we were - thanks to you keeping me up to date! (I need to go back and find your bbq sauce post as ours got tossed thanks to the mercury).

jenny February 3, 2009 at 9:16 AM  

Thanks for the tutorial cathy! I was munching on some almond accents from sunkist and noticed it had corn syrup in it AND MSG!

Have you written about MSG at all, I'm curious to learn more.

Natalie February 3, 2009 at 11:01 AM  

Love this blog. I've purged HFCS and trans fats. Also most artifical colors, flavors, etc. It was hard in the beginning. But, now, when people ask me how I did it, I can barely remember. It just becomes a way of life. Since I love to cook and am blessed to be able to be a SAHM, I have time to cook from scratch. I have found that many things made from scratch don't really take that much longer to make. I think cake, muffins, and pancakes take about 3-5 mins longer than from a box. It's so nominal. But, we've all lived such a "boxed" life for so long, it's hard for some to make the switch b/c we just don't know any better. But, once you do it, you look at your family and feel a sense of pride and relief (relief that you don't have to worry about contaminations, possible long-term side-effects, etc). It's like I felt when I breastfed each child into toddlerhood. I would look at them and say, "Wow, I did that. I nourished them. I my have helped prevent childhool cancer, increased IQ, etc..." It felt especially good before they started solids. Anyway, again,...great blog and I've passed it on!

Sagan February 3, 2009 at 11:09 AM  

Ra ra down with HFCS!

Cold turkey is the best way to go when it comes to HFCS.

Carole February 3, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

Isn't it incredible what you find that stuff in? Tomato paste and tomato soup were 2 places that really surprised me.

But have you noticed that the food companies are pulling the corn syrup out of stuff at an astounding rate? Your favorite cranberry juice is now free of it.

My 17 year old daughter even reads labels. Actually it's amazing how much pressure the teens put on manufacturers.

But I am a little surprised at how quickly they are pulling the stuff out. Makes you wonder...

Hanlie February 3, 2009 at 11:49 AM  

I read the ingredients list before I buy anything. We've done quite well to elimate processed foods from our diet and that way we're avoiding a lot of chemicals!

Jenna February 3, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

sheepishly i have to say we are not cold turkey on HFCS. i do look for alternatives, and i find myself not having budget or time to read every label-i'm often shopping with 2 preschoolers in the basket. my approach is to reduce processed food (including organic types) and eat whole food more often. that by itself eliminates the good majority of HFCS we eat.

Ki Two February 3, 2009 at 3:12 PM  

A couple years ago I had to write and present a persuasive speech for my public speaking class. I had never done research on HFCS until then but WOW it was fun and I've been trying to get people to stop eating it since then. I have my guilty pleasures occasionally, but just being aware of it has significantly cut the amount I consume (probably like 85% lower). I just found your blog b/c I was looking up HMCS. It's great! I'll certainly return to read your other posts soon. ^_^

cathy February 3, 2009 at 3:22 PM  

Blake, Jehnie, and Jenna - You have to do what works for your own lifestyle. For us, it's giving it up completely. We're certainly not food saints here! I think that even just being more aware of what you're eating and avoiding HFCS when reasonable is a great thing!

Jenny - it's crazy what you find in your food when you start looking! I'll admit that I don't know enough about MSG. Might be a future post there!

Natalie - Wow! Great job! We're still working on our diet here. Trans fat is on the way out, and although we still consume plenty of processed foods, I'm pickier about what I buy and turn to making things from scratch much more often. I love what you said, "But, we've all lived such a "boxed" life for so long, it's hard for some to make the switch b/c we just don't know any better." So true! I think that so often we assume that making something from scratch will just take so much longer, when it often doesn't. Thanks for reading! I'm looking forward to more comments from you!

Sagan - no arguments here!

Carole - Yes, it's almost ironic, isn't it? It seems like the Corn Refiners Assoc ads backfired in a big way. Instead of making people comfortable with HFCS, it's made people question it more - and companies are realizing that there's marketing power in removing HFCS from their product.

Hanlie - Are you completely processed food free? If you are, my hat is off to you! Reading ingredients doesn't take as much time as you think it would once you do it for a while.

cathy February 3, 2009 at 3:23 PM  

Ki Two - Thanks for the comment! I'm looking forward to hearing more from you!

LilSweetPrince February 3, 2009 at 3:47 PM  

Thank for this post! I'm trying to eliminate hfcs IN 2009.

becky February 3, 2009 at 5:29 PM  

I just started going HFCS free last week. Like you, I'm just not purchasing any more of those products. Tonight, I looked at every bun and bread roll package on the shelf and finally came away with frozen organic rolls for pork sandwiches. Oh, this really won't be easy! Glad I found your blog for tips!

cathy February 3, 2009 at 6:48 PM  

Lil Sweet Prince - You go, girl! You know where to find me if you need pointers!

Becky - Try Orowheat breads and buns. They eliminated HFCS from ALL of their products last year. You can read about that here:

Rudi's is also a great brand, if you can find them. More on them here:

Anonymous February 3, 2009 at 8:28 PM  

I really like your blog. For new readers it would be helpful to have a list of common foods/brands listed in categories that contain HFCS.

Cynthia1770 February 4, 2009 at 7:00 AM  

My google alert picked up your post. Enjoyable reading. might help your
readers. She keeps a list of all
HFCS-free foods. Vienna's Chicago
Style Relish (sweet pickle) is made with sugar, but it also has
blue dye No. 1. We've been HFCS free for about a year, though my husband keeps his private stash of
Coke. I shop a lot in European import stores. You still need to be careful, since HFCS, is listed as iso-glucose, or fructose-glucose, but most products are made with real sugar, and many products are made without sugar, imagine that!
Take care.

becky February 4, 2009 at 7:23 AM  

Thanks cathy. It appears that Orowheat is sold only in the West; it's Midwestern counterpart is Brownberry. I've eaten Brownberry bread and buns for years, and was so happy to find them HFCS free! But finding their buns in my local megamart is kind of hit or miss.

I'll have to look for the Rudi's at the natural foods store (a place I may have to start frequenting!)

Cathy D March 1, 2009 at 7:20 PM  

I noticed it in the chewable vitamins I've been giving my son just today! And, here I thought I was doing well by him... :(

Anonymous May 14, 2010 at 7:37 AM  

I have a favorite cranberry juice! that contains HFCS and little motivation to ditch it because I've given it a free pass, so to speak. It's always a "next time" thing..

Zebe December 23, 2010 at 8:25 PM  

I've been HFCS free for many years. Giving up this artificial sugar, and no longer eating at fast food restaurants has helped me eat much healthier.
Organic sprouted grain bread is available in some freezer sections.
Thank you for this blog. You are doing a service to those who read and follow. Keep up the good work.

viagra online February 7, 2012 at 9:20 AM  

this corn syrup can be so dangerous for your body so be careful with.

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