AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Snack Foods - Reading Labels DATE: 10/05/2008 05:20:00 AM ----- BODY:
One of the nice things about visiting my parents is raiding the kitchen. They stock their cupboards so differently than I do… all manner of cookies, chips and crackers. We have on-going debates as to who has a healthier diet – my dad who eats processed ice cream and chips in modest portions, or me who eats mostly made from scratch food with butter and cream. Since I don’t buy these snacks for myself, I tend to only eat them (if at all) when I visit them.

The reason I don’t eat more is that I usually read the label of processed foods before I eat it. I’m generally skeeved out by the number of ingredients I can’t pronounce.

On a recent visit, in my usual habit, I poked in the cupboards looking for a snack and found wheat thins and Fritos. Though I’m not on a diet, I try to make healthy food choices. I thought, “surely the wheat thins are a better choice.” So I read the labels (both had the same serving size in terms of grams):

Fritos Corn Chips
Amount Per Serving -

Calories 160 Calories from Fat 90

Total Fat 10g
Saturated Fat 1.5g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 170mg

Total Carbohydrate 15g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 1g
Protein 2g

Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2% Iron 0%

Wheat Thins
Amount Per Serving -

Calories 150 Calories from Fat 50
Total Fat 6g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 260mg
Total Carbohydrate 21g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 4g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2% Iron 6%

At first blush, you might say that the Wheat Thins are better for you…. After all, they have less calories (10 less per serving) and less fat calories (50 vs. 90). But, they also have nearly four times the sugar content, and 90 mg. more sodium. Interestingly, they have the same (minimal) fiber and protein content. Then I looked at the ingredient list...

Fritos: INGREDIENTS: Corn, Corn Oil, and Salt

Wheat Thins: INGREDIENTS: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Soybean Oil, Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Sugar, Defatted Wheat Germ, Cornstarch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Corn Syrup, Monoglycerides, Barley Malt Syrup, Leavening (Calcium Phosphate, Baking Soda), Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Vegetable Color (Annatto Extract, Turmeric Oleoresin), Onion Powder.

In the laundry list of ingredients, the wheat thins have the beleaguered high-fructose corn syrup. I would argue that the Fritos Corn chips are the lesser of two evils. What do you think?


----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:10/05/2008 07:56:00 AM Fascinating! I'm not much of a snacker, but when I do, I go for salty foods. Will definitely read those labels more carefully. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Rose's Lime DATE:10/05/2008 10:30:00 PM I had a long conversation with someone who works for Frito Lay last winter I think it was. She was so frustrated by the bad rap her company's food products get.

Besides Fritos, she pointed out that Lays Potato Chips are made of nothing but potatoes, oil & salt. She loved to point out that there's more salt in Cheerios than in Fritos.

There's a lot of crap in Veggie Bootie and other "healthy" or "natural" food.

Oh. She didn't mention Funions. And she used the phrase "snacking occasions" a lot. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous The Reluctant Eater DATE:10/05/2008 10:35:00 PM Based on the way I eat, sounds like Wheat Thins are definitely worse. So surprising! I'm a bit worried that everyone worried about dieting just ends up eating so many fake ingredients. It's going to catch up to us soon...

@rose So funny...I was just going to mention that about Lays Potato Chips. Just discovered it myself the other day when I reluctantly accepted a free bag of chips with deli sandwich. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:10/06/2008 04:00:00 PM I am Julia's dad and I would like to respond to Julia's reference to my eating "processed ice cream and chips in modest portions," not so much to defend myself but to explain.

I believe in moderation in all things. Instead of denying myself the pleasure of eating foods that are not considered especially healthy, I limit the portion size of these foods. Perhaps more important, I believe I have made an important discovery in regard to these (and other) foods. That is, a small amount will give me the good taste. And that is what I want--the taste. Here I am not referring not so much to the portion size, but to the "bite" size. For example, a small part of a teaspoonful of processed ice cream gives me the taste that I crave. After six of seven of these "bites," I am satisfied. Incidentally, I don't like having desserts in restaurants because the portion is too big. For this reason, I often suggest sharing desserts.

As with ice cream, so too with the chips that Julia refers to. I get the taste I want by slowly eating a chip or two. Repeating this eight or nine times gives just the added touch to my main dish. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:10/06/2008 04:03:00 PM Lydia, I'm also a salty - snacky gal so I need to pick carefully!

Rose's Lime: Maybe Frito's needs to start an "anti-smear" campaign the way the HFCS industry did.

TRE, The video-commercials on your blog are great!

Dad, You crack me up! And I respectfully disagree with you: Those don't sound like small portions to me. And I still think that High Fructose Corn Syrup in any quantity is a bad thing. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger melissa DATE:10/07/2008 01:11:00 PM I see where your dad is coming from, but I agree that HFCS is unacceptable at any point.

I actually read the labels on the chips last year. It's one of the only non-home cooked things Steve won't give up. I buy those big variety packs with the little bags of Doritos, Fritos, Lays, etc. I was surprised when I stopped to read the tiny list of ingredients and was happy with how much more natural they were than I expected. I hate buying anything with more than one (if not zero) chemical ingredients. It just isn't right for our bodies.

Just one opinion. ;) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger samaBlog DATE:10/21/2008 05:30:00 PM Are the serving sizes the same? Regardless, I agree, Fritos all the way. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:10/22/2008 10:47:00 AM Samablog, the serving sizes are the same. And I'm glad you see it my way :-) ----- --------