Sunday, June 19, 2011


If you want to avoid high-fructose corn syrup, palm oil, and hydrogenated oils, your selection is really freakin' thin in the world of pre-packaged foods. And the products that are made not using these ingredients as part of the company's philosophy are usually doing so to cater to some self-righteous/important element of society, like Whole Foods-dwelling hipsters. Thus, the ingredient list is more about whatever ingredients are trendy and not about making the food taste good. Oh, and speaking of Whole Foods...

Kashi is definitely one of those hipster companies. I generally don't like anything they have for sale. Their cookies don't taste like cookies, their cereal tastes like twigs while somehow being less healthy than FiberONE, and their stuff is over-priced.

But their cereal bars are a bright spot. They taste good, with strong fruit flavor, and a complete compliment of real ingredients. Compare this to Kellogg's Nutri-Grain bars, or, more accurately, ANYTHING that Kellogg's makes, and you'll be amazed at the crap that Kellogg's shovels onto your breakfast table.

Even their "healthy" foods like FiberPlus, with 35% your daily fiber, comes with hydrogenated oils, specifically hydrogenated palm oil, so not only are orangutans dying for this oil, you're dying eating it. And remember, if there are hydrogenated oils, and they say 0% Trans Fats on the nutrition label, THEY ARE LYING. It's a legal lie (anything below 0.5 grams per serving can legally be listed as zero), but it's still a lie. And you can be damn sure that the trans fat amount is as close to 0.5 grams as chemically possible.

But back to the Nutri-Grain bars specifically. They're a trainwreck. The only thing that's worse are the Special K 100 Calorie Fruit Crisps, which have near-as-damnit NO fruit in them. Eating a Nutri-Grain bar in the morning is like eating a Reese's cup for breakfast.

Let's dissect a Nutrigrain bar. The filling in the Strawberry Kashi TLC bar lists its ingredients as Pear Juice, tapioca, cane juice, apple powder, strawberry puree, corn starch (unmodified, whatever that means), vegetable glycerin, water, natural flavor (why?), and more fruit juice.

In contrast, the Nutri-Grain bar lists its filling as containing high fructose corn syrup (sugar), corn syrup (sugar), strawberry puree (Yay, fruit!), sugar (more?!), Sodium Alginate, Corn Starch (modified... still puzzeling), Citric Acid, Natural and Artifical flavoring, Sodium Citrate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Methylcellulose, Carambel Color, Malic Acid, RED #40.

Most of the chemicals on that list are scary-sounding but totally harmless and widely used. It's the THREE inclusions of sugar in various ways that boggles my mind. How much actual fruit is in their "fruit" bars?! It reminds me of Family Guy's spoof of Tony the Tiger.

So it was with great happiness that I discovered that Kashi's bars not only have real food in them, but taste good! Let me repeat that, this Kashi product TASTES GOOD. It tastes like it has real fruit in it, because it does, and while the cake part is a little bark-like, it actually matches the sweetness of the filling very well. My only wish was for more filling in any given bar.

They still aren't the healthiest breakfast around, but if you include this as the on-the-road element to your morning meal, it's quite good. I've bought these in bulk from Amazon and use them as an inter-meal snack. I think that they're peachy-keen.

Kashi TLC Soft-Baked Cereal Bars: RECOMMENDED

Saturday, June 11, 2011

They're After Me, Dad! They're After Me!

I had a dream last night where I was being pursued by a demon that looked a lot like the ghost from The Grudge crossed with the girl from The Ring. Weird thing was, she was a corn demon. Somehow I knew this, and I remember an image of corn in the dream, so yeah. And to fend her off, I was throwing Pepperidge Farm cookies at her to defend myself. I kicked myself awake when the demon tried to bite my feet.

Now be Freud for a second and analyze my dream.

I'm DREAMING about high fructose corn syrup! I can't escape it!

All that's left now is to dream about hydrogen atoms trying to steal my vegetable oil, and the ghosts of murdered orangutans hanging from the palm trees that are, for some reason, in my back yard.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Worst Food Commercial of all Time

There are many bad commercials out there. All ads for drugs are atrocious. Car commercials are usually annoying. Anything intended to "help around the house" are damn-near always horrifically sexist and borderline false advertising. But in the world of food, there is one commercial that stands out as stunningly bad. A commercial so God-awful, it made me want to MURDER people when I first saw it.

That this... this, thing was a conscious creation of a large group of people makes me wonder if they were all, in fact, evil Satan worshipers. After they took every annoying, precocious kid from advertising history and extracted their DNA, they injected it into the womb of Mephistopheles, who, nine months later, birthed a clot of black bile, sludge, and cynical hatred made manifest from which this child rose, looking like Carrie at the end of the prom scene. It takes the most annoying aspects of every "It's Shake n' Bake, and I helped!" commercial since the product's creation and distills it down into 30 seconds of sheer advertising horror.


Behold, the Welch's Makes Your Lips Smack television commercial, circa 1999.

Friday, June 3, 2011

USDA Launches MyPlate Pyramid Replacement

I briefly mentioned my hope that the USDA wouldn't totally bork the new food pyramid. Well, they borked it. Not totally, though. It's better than the current Food Pyramid, but that's not hard, and I think that it's still fundamentally worse than the old food pyramid. WTF USDA?

First off, I actually very much like the pyramid structure. The plate structure is also rather good. I think that, correctly used, both designs would communicate what needs to be communicated. The issue is that they're completely failing to communicate these things.

Like, for example, the recent (and in some cases, not so recent) revelations that shortening is the equivalent of eating poison. You're as well off eating sticks of butter dipped in Frosted Flakes. It's obvious that many people don't know this. This is CRITICAL INFORMATION that should be communicated in the recommendation graphic.

Or how about the fact that they're recommending low-fat or fat-free milk, while there is no evidence to support it being better for you. In fact, some evidence supports whole milk being possibly better for you then fat-reduced varieties, but that's splitting hairs. The important fact is that there is no evidence supporting the low-fat assertion.

Their recommendation of whole grains is extremely problematic. Look in your local cereal aisle. The number of sugary cereals that advertise "Rich in Whole Grains!" is sickening. The plate should have said "Fiber," because that's what's actually important. Soluble and non-soluble fiber is what you actually want from that stuff, and lots of it So even though it's RICH IN WHOLE GRAINS (smiley face!) it's still low in fiber and unhealthy. Simply saying whole grains just gives our loving food companies another buzz word to obfuscate into oblivion.

I am happy to see that there appears, appears, to be no politicization of the recommendations. The "whole grains" part of the plate is questionable, as is the usage of the term "protein," instead of meat. The meat industry has spent lots of time trying to convince the public to see meat as something other than, well, meat. The USDA is saying that their market research shows that people know that "protein" means a diverse group of foods, such as tofu or beans, but I'm not so sure. And as any dietician worth their salt knows full well, people might say one thing while thinking and doing another.

The plate is only one issue with the American diet, though. Truly, the largest issue are our absurd agriculture policies. It brings to mind the 2007 documentary King Corn, which discussed the ridiculous state of farm subsidies. Namely, our farm subsidies are SO fucked up, we are paying people tax payer dollars since their lawn once had corn grown on it. Corn is far cheaper than it should be, and because of that, our diet is predominantly corn. Extruded corn, puffed corn, baked corn, corn meal, corn syrup, HFCS, well, you get the idea. And what isn't corn is soy, because it is also horribly over-subsidized.

And which companies are benefitting from this subsidization? The biggest ones, and ONLY the biggest ones. The little guys invariably get pushed out. So, shocker, the big guys are very averse to having the subsidies changed. As are the American junk food producers, since their shitty food is made of almost nothing but cheap corn. They bribe, oh, I forgot, they don't bribe, they make campaign contributions, to various politicians, who then keep these subsidies alive.

This isn't conspiracy theory nonsense. Remember, I'm always talking about how I'm not anti-corporation. I am, in fact, very pro-corporation. Corporations should not have morals. Their goal is to make money. Sometimes, this can manifest itself in moral behavior.

For example, it is in a corporation's best interest to keep its customers happy and healthy, so it might encourage exercise and sell healthy foods. But it also might not care, since its market is so huge, like McDonald's. It is not McDonald's job to worry about your waist line. It's yours. But it is also our government's. And the fact that our representatives, that supposedly care about us, are encouraging a broken system that gives countless billions of taxpayer dollars to rich, evil companies, while at the same time encouraging the American populous to get fatter and sicker, is a travesty of the highest order. We should hang these politicians from trees, bury them, and salt the earth where doth their bodies lay.

So, yes. The new MyPlate is better than the old MyPyramid, but the real progress, the real change, is yet to be made.