Pantry Raid, An Example

Ultra-Processed Food

Recently, I asked you to conduct a Pantry Raid: go through your cupboards, refrigerators, freezers, and even those secret snack drawers looking for four key ingredients –>

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Artificial Colors
  • Artificial Flavors
  • Artificial Sweeteners

To learn more about why I chose these four ingredients and what I think about other ingredients, read the post: Processed Foods and The Four No-No Ingredients.

I wanted to show you an example of foods that you may find when you conduct your investigation. I don’t have these ingredients at my house anymore, so a volunteer let me go through their pantry. I want to thank my volunteer for allowing me to do this! I know it’s not easy to open up your pantry for the world to see, so bravo! Overall, there wasn’t a lot that we found. (Great start!)

The items pictured include everything that contained our four no-no ingredients. There were a few items that I thought would make the list, however, though they were highly processed, somehow they skipped out on those four ingredients. Again, this exercise’s purpose is to get you to start reading labels and to find some items in your pantry that might need a makeover. It’s not intended to be an absolute test.

I’ll now go through each item individually. To help me out, I’ll use two great resources, and Fooducate. These sites grade foods from A to F, just like in school. They also offer alternatives to similar, but better rated products. As I’m preparing this post, I’m finding that I don’t agree with the generosity of the Fooducate scores, so I have left a link for your reference, but will not be reporting their grades.

Microwave Popcorn, Pop Secret Light Butter Flavor

  • Ingredients: Popcorn, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Salt, Butter (Cream, Milk, Salt) , Flavor(s) Natural & Artificial, Color(s) Added, Propyl Gallate To Preserve Freshness
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: Artificial Flavors, Artificial Colors
  • Health Score: F
  • Fooducate Score

Microwave Popcorn Packaging

Microwave popcorn is a great example. Many of us have had this in our pantry at one time or another. Time to toss it out. Besides the fact that I don’t like using microwaves, it’s so easy to make popcorn at home with popcorn kernels, a little oil, and a pot on the stove. If that doesn’t work for you, there are even some brands of already popped popcorn, like Angie’s Kettle Corn or Boom Chicka Pop.

And if you are worried about popcorn being a GMO, according to the film Genetic Roulette, and other sources on the web quoting GMO expert Jeffery Smith, there is no  GMO popcorn on the market. It comes from a different kind of corn seed that Monsanto hasn’t bothered with yet.

Lender’s Refrigerated Plain Bagels

  • Ingredients: Wheat Flour Enriched (Flour, Niacin, Iron Reduced, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)), Water, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Contains 2% or less of the Following: (Yeast, Salt, Soybean(s) Oil, Wheat Gluten Vital, Preservative (Sorbic Acid,Calcium Propionate) , Mono and Diglycerides, Dough Conditioner(s) (Calcium Sulphate (Sulfate),L-Cysteine), Guar Gum, Enzyme(s), Corn Meal Yellow
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: High Fructose Corn SyrupLender's Refrigerated Sliced Bagels
  • Health Score: C-
  • Fooducate Score

If you’ve ever made bread before, you know that you don’t need this many ingredients. Again, we are looking for these 4 key ingredients because they are good indicators of ultra-processed food. And this, my dears, is ultra-processed.

Healthy Choice Premium Fudge Bars

  •  Ingredients: Milk Whole, Milk Skim Condensed, Water, Polydextrose, Sorbitol, Contains 22% or less Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Whey Protein Concentrate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Stabilizer(Maltodextrin, Whey, Locust Bean Gum, Cellulose Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, Guar Gum,Food Starch Modified, Polysorbate 80, Carrageenan) , Aspartame, Glycerine, Mono and Diglycerides, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vanilla, Vanillin (Artificial Vanilla Flavor)
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: Artificial Sweetener, Artificial Flavor
  • Health Score: F
  • Fooducate Score

Healthy Choice Premium Fudge BarsBesides the fact that this popsicle is full of ingredients that we wouldn’t know what they are without Googling them, they contain Aspartame, a very controversial artificial sweetener. As I’ve mentioned before, I would avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs. Now this Pantry Raid comes from the home of a diabetic…thus you’ll see a few “sugar-free” items here. I’m going to begin researching more ideas specifically for diabetics who want to eat more real food and avoid artificial sweeteners. If you have any resources you recommend, please leave them in the comments below!

An alternate idea for these popsicles could be something homemade. This would be a good time to try my recipe for Healthy Chocolate Pops! (They are good, but I do have to warn you, they taste a little “healthy.”)

Ritz Crackers, Honey Wheat

  • Ingredients: unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate {vitiam b1}, riboflavin {vitamin b2}, folic acid), whole grain wheat flour, soybean oil, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, honey, salt, leavening (calcium phosphate and/or baking soda), wheat gluten, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: Artificial FlavorRitz Honey Wheat
  • Health Score: not specifically listed, but all Ritz are F
  • Fooducate Score

This is an example of when the front of the box doesn’t tell you the whole story. They tout “5g of whole grain” on the front of the box. If whole grain is what you are after, notice that it is listed second on the ingredients list. That means it has more white flour than whole wheat.

Publix Concord Grape Jelly

  • Ingredients: concord grape juice, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, pectin, citric acid and potassium citrate.
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Health Score: Publix brand products not listed
  • Fooducate Score

If you aren’t familiar with how ingredients labels are written, they are listed in order of “predominance by weight“. This generally means that the largest ingredient goes first, and continues in descending order. This is important to understand in order to get why this label has 3 different kinds of sugar listed. It’s not because this jelly tastes better with the perfect mix of High Fructose Corn Syrup, (regular) Corn Syrup, and Sugar. It’s because if you only used one sugar, it would be the first ingredient. And no one wants to buy a product that’s first ingredient is sugar. Even if it is jelly.

Or maybe they will. Because the organic version of this jelly, Publix Greenwise Organic Grape Jelly, has the following ingredients: organic sugar, organic concord grape juice, pectin, citric acid. I would consider that an improvement over the conventional one listed above.

So perhaps it’s just cheaper to make the jelly with three sugars. Food corporations listen to money above all else!

Del Monte Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes, Garlic & Olive Oil

  • Ingredients: Tomato(es), Tomato(es) Juice, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Garlic, Salt, Olive Oil, Spice(s),Garlic Puree, Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Health Score: C-
  • Fooducate Score

“Corn is in everything.” Have you heard that saying before? Now you may be starting to understand why.

Publix Original Whipped Topping

  • Ingredients: Water, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut and Palm Kernel Oils), Contains Less than 2% of Sodium Caseinate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Modified Food Starch, Xanthan and Guar Gums, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Monostearate, Beta Carotene (Color).
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial Flavor
  • Health Score: (similar product) F
  • Fooducate Score

There’s not much real about this. A great alternative here would be to buy some heaving whipping cream or full fat coconut milk and do it yourself! (I know, not the fastest option.) I’ve always wanted to try one of these whipped cream dispensers…a fun kitchen gadget!

Crosse & Blackwell Major Grey’s Chutney

  • Ingredients: Mangoes, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Raisins, Dextrose, Lime Juice Concentrate, Salt, Tamarind Concentrate (Glucose, Tamarind Extract, Caramel Color, Sugar, Tartaric Acid), Spices, Natural Flavor, Onion Powder.
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial ColorCrosse and Blackwell
  • Health Score: (similar product) F
  • Fooducate Score

Caramel Color is the artificial color that slides under the radar. It doesn’t have a number in it, so it doesn’t jump out at you. It’s also used in a lot of “natural” foods, and is even an acceptable ingredient at Whole Foods Markets. There are four ways of making caramel color, and only one of them is “natural”. Due to unclear labeling, we should steer clear of it…but you really have to keep your eyes out for this one. It’s a sneaky one!

Publix Pickles, Bread and Butter Chips

  • Ingredients: Cucumber(s), Corn Syrup High Fructose, Vinegar Distilled, Water, Onion(s), Spice(s), Salt,Yellow 5, Calcium Chloride, Flavor(s) Natural
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial Color
  • Health Score: (similar product) F
  • Fooducate Score

I used to eat a lot of pickles, back when I used to eat a lot of sandwiches. I was shocked to find out that my pickles were painted with artificial food dye! I’ve found that the refrigerated brands of pickles typically have more natural ingredients.

Lakeview Farms Sugar Free Gelatin Snacks

  • Ingredients: Water, Gelatin, Citric Acid, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Sodium Benzoate & Potassium Sorbate to Preserve Freshness, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 1Lakeview Farms Sugar Free Gelatin Snacks
  • Pantry Raid Indicator: Artificial Flavor, Aspartame (Artificial Sweetener), Artificial Colors
  • Health Score: similar listing, F

And here it is. If I had to suggest one item to get rid of from this household, this is where I would start. The only thing natural about this gelatin is the water.

I have made homemade jello for my kids at home from juice and unflavored gelatin…but I’m sure it’s not the same, and it certainly has sugar (from the juice), which wouldn’t work for this diabetic. Sometimes there are things we just need to wean ourselves off of.


So there you have it! An example of a pantry raid. Any surprises? Next we will be setting our goals. I look forward to hearing about your own progress at home. I’m here to help, just ask!



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