Surprising HFCS food of the week (or don't judge a food by its cover)

>> Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I've gotten pretty good at picking brands that don't have HFCS in their products. With conventional brands (Nabisco, Kraft, etc.) it takes a lot of label reading. Some products are HFCS and trans-fat free, and some aren't. There is a whole subset of brands now that seem to go out of their way to make themselves look more shi-shi. It seems kind of an unwritten rule that these brands don't contain HFCS and usually don't contain hydrogenated oils. (They also generally cost more too, but that's not what this post is about.) Their products might not be healthy, but they're generally free of some of the more villified processed ingredients (like HFCS).

Sometimes, though, a brand surprises me. A brand that just has that look - that HFCS-free look - is Culinary Circle. Have you seen it in your store yet? It's all over our Albertsons here. The packaging and the upscale looking branding just screams no HFCS to me.
Guess what? I was so wrong! Culinary Circle looks upscale, but the ingredient lists tell a different story. Not all of their products contain HFCS, but some do. (Their garlic naan does not contain HFCS and is actually pretty good for a store bought naan.) And many (I'd say most, but I didn't look at very many of their products) have impressively long ingredient lists - though not impressive in a good way.

Culinary Circle is another Supervalu store brand that is marketing itself as "chef inspired cuisine." (Supervalu owns Albertsons as well as several other grocery store chains.) The Culinary Circle brand manager says that, "Culinary Circle brings families back to their own dining rooms with the quality and unique variety of food found on casual dining restaurant menus." Hmmm...their ingredient lists do not scream quality to me. (Don't bother looking for ingredient lists on their website. Nary an ingredient is listed.)

It's a nice idea, but in the end you're getting cheap meals made with cheap ingredients. I'm a little amazed that Supervalu could do such a good job with its Wild Harvest Organics - a reasonable priced organic line with good ingredients - and such a poor job with its "premium" Culinary Circle line of products.

So, let this be a warning. You can't judge a book by its cover, and you can't judge a food by its packaging. If you're serious about eating better foods, better flip your product over and at least give the ingredients a scan!


Amy June 10, 2009 at 2:44 PM  

Another decieving practice on labeling.. Some packages will say 0trans fats on the front, but the ingredient list has hydrogenated fats. Well, I learned they can say 0 if there is less than half a gram of trans fats, so companies will cut serving size until its half a gram so they can write 0 trans fats. Another reason to read the ingredients.

Lori June 10, 2009 at 3:00 PM  

Haven't seen it yet. I love hearing about your discoveries though. So helpful!

Kara June 11, 2009 at 4:47 AM  

Culinary Circle items are being pushed hard at the Shaw's chain in Mass. Some of their products look fine, but I was also surprised by the number that contained HFCS. Our family is a huge fan of the Wild Harvest line, though! Their bite-size chocolate chip cookies are ridiculously addictive :-)

Karen June 11, 2009 at 8:20 AM  

We love the Wild Harvest brand. As much as I don't care to shop at Albertsons, I make special trips there just for the WH brand. I haven't seen the CC brand here yet, but thanks for the heads up. I'm so sick of having to read the labels on EVERYTHING! I will say, however, that since we've cut out HFCS, we eat less! Less junk food, surely, but less food overall as well. So... I guess I'll keep reading the labels...

Sagan June 11, 2009 at 9:50 AM  

Thanks for the warning! I hadn't seen this one yet.

Jenna June 11, 2009 at 2:05 PM  

we don't have albertsons in my neck of the woods. this post is a good reminder that fancy doesn't mean healthy, thanks for sharing.

jh June 11, 2009 at 2:51 PM  

Thanks for bringing this up. Sometimes I go into the grocery store and it shocks me how little FOOD is in there. Mostly it is just products that are for sale, are marketed, and don't even resemble food. Sticking with real,whole foods seems to be the way to go, you know what you are getting.

Boda Weight Loss Blog

maubs June 12, 2009 at 2:22 PM  

It kills me to see how many organic/natural products will list dextrose or maltodextrin as an ingredient. Show me where on the corn plant you get the dextrose! Of course, these mystery filler ingredients are all corn, to which I'm allergic. Gotta love the hidden poison (for me).

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