Decoding Food Labels, Take Two.

Decoding Food Labels, Take Two.

Not too long ago I posted an article on decoding food labels as a way to help others understand real food. And we had so much fun looking at all the “healthy” ways food companies dupe us into buying garbage that I thought we’d do it again. So, without any further ado… here are some more products worth “flipping over” to see what’s really behind the labels.

Made with…. junk.

So I don’t think anyone would pick up this Jell-O pack and think “health food.” But it illustrates one of the most widely used labeling tactics with that tricky little “made with real milk” on the upper right hand corner.

Somehow that’s supposed to give us confidence that this is actual “real” food. Right?

Nah. You can’t be fooled that easily.

Decoding food labels: Why you shouldn't trust "healthy" marketing tactics.

Let’s take a look on the other side:

Decoding food labels: Why you shouldn't trust "healthy" marketing tactics.

True, the first ingredient is “milk” if you consider skim milk real milk. But I don’t. And here’s why. But even if this product actually used REAL milk, just because something is “made with” doesn’t mean that’s all you’re getting. That little tiny word “with” is a sure sign that you need to check out the ingredients and see what else is coming along “with” that so-called real milk:

  • Modified cornstarch that is most likely GMO
  • Cream that is most likely from CAFO cows full of antibiotics and hormones
  • Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sodium Alginate, Carob Bean Gum… unnecessary additives.
  • Natural and artificial flavors. Since we know that “natural flavor” can include bad things like MSG, just imagine what “artificial flavor” does to your body.
  • Titanium Dioxide, Caramel Color, Yellow 6, Yellow 5… real food shouldn’t need coloring agents, especially artificial ones that cause lots of health problems.

Of course that’s just the pudding ingredients! Once you consider what goes on top (vegetable oils, BHT, and more artificial junk!) you’ll really want to skip this dessert and make your own (more delicious) healthy real food treats. Like this yummy Creme Brulee.

Only 90 calories!

Marketers are very smart when it comes to promoting food. Whether it’s high protein, low fat, low calories or whatever other “health trend” is in, you better believe they will capitalize on any perceived virtues of their food. Take for example these Special K popcorn chips. Special K has been well known to promote diet foods, particularly to women who want to lose weight.

Decoding food labels: Why you shouldn't trust "healthy" marketing tactics.

Already we know we’re in for some not-so-good stuff as we can see from the front that these have both natural and artificial flavors, but let’s see how bad it is:

Decoding food labels: Why you shouldn't trust "healthy" marketing tactics.

The first two ingredients are no surprise as a high percentage of processed foods contain both corn and rancid vegetable oils… both of which are cheap and most likely GMO. Add in some artificial flavors (which again, who knows what that means!), nonfat milk (again, not real food), and other unpronounceable stuff, this is anything but healthy.

Remember: Empty calories DO NOT NOURISH.

Your body will continue to crave food until it gets what it needs to stay alive. Skip this and eat an egg for less calories and MORE nutrition. Go ahead, eat two. (Read up on why I don’t count calories.)

Targeted to Children

Pop Tarts. Raise your hand if you had these in your home growing up? I sure did. And I loved them. Heck, I remember occasionally buying these from the vending machine during grad school when I was famished. I didn’t think they were health food by any means, but surely something that’s “made with real fruit” couldn’t be that bad, right?

Decoding food labels: Why you shouldn't trust "healthy" marketing tactics.

What’s even more disturbing about Pop-Tarts (and the like) is how targeted they are toward children. Just popping over to grab a quick snapshot of this box ended up with my little two year old all excited. Why? Because Pop Tarts has a hop-scotch game branded on the tile floor in front of their product. Start ‘em young, I guess.

Let’s check out why this is something nobody should eat, especially young and developing little bodies!

Decoding food labels: Why you shouldn't trust "healthy" marketing tactics.


  • “Enriched” flour (which is just another term for processed flour that has been stripped of all nutrients so that synthetic and often GMO vitamins are added back in. Not really “enriched,” if you ask me.
  • Following that we have corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Sweeteners with no nutrition, GMO to boot, and hiding in so many (especially kid) products.
  • We have soybean oil (remember why I HATE vegetable oils) which is also most likely GMO. Plus I dislike soy for many other reasons.
  • We have all sorts of ingredients with long names that do nothing but add shelf life, color, and other things that real food doesn’t need.
  • Why have some artificial food coloring… another “kid-friendly” ingredient that should not be fed to children.
  • But, hey! Look! Vitamins! Again, most vitamins added back into processed foods are synthetic (and not easily accessible by the body, at best) and often GMO.

So yeah, skip the Pop-Tarts. Make some soaked oatmeal, a couple of fried eggs in coconut oil, sprouted toast with raw butter on it, a homemade smoothie…. anything but these.

Remember: Progress not perfection.

If the idea of ridding your home of processed foods seems overwhelming, remember to take baby steps. I’d highly recommend checking out my ebook Processed Free. It’s the stress-free guide to real food. Really… stress free.

Real food is awesome. Trust me.

NOTE: Due to an never-ending cesspool of spam, I have made the tough decision to close comments 14 days after the original posting of all posts. If you have a burning question or are looking for support in your journey to healthy living, please join the Thank Your Body Friends facebook page here.

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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie


  1. Heather May

    Great points! I love that the manufacturing companies sneak crap in. My family now eats about 98% organic and I look at labels religiously. It is hilarious to see some of the “healthy” items and how it is better to buy the “full sugar” versions. If it says Sugar Free….for me, it means a no!

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