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Taste This!

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Message Susan Benjamin

Fall is just a leaf-drop away and who isn't thinking about lunch bags, healthy snacks, and getting fit before winter sets in? So, guess what food contains these ingredients and see if it's in your healthy food stash:

"Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, rice flour, sugar, salt, malted barley extract, whole grain rolled wheat, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness and/or sunflower oil with natural tocopherol added to preserve freshness, dried coconut, whole wheat flour, sodium bicarbonate, soy lecithin, caramel color, nonfat dry milk, sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract, corn syrup, invert sugar, sugar, corn syrup solids, glycerin, partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Contains 2% or less of sorbitol, calcuium carbonate, salt, water, soy lecithin, molasses, natural and artificial flavor, BHT, citric acid

If you read the ingredients alone, you'd assume they're describing ...maybe a cookie? (Granted, a mass manufactured cookie...Who adds BHT to cookies at home?) Actually, the list describes a Quaker Chewy Granola Bar with Chocolate Chips. Marketers know consumers respond to messaging instantly: one word can shape their purchasing decision. The word in the case is "granola." Think "granola" and you think "healthy." You can almost smell the wind in your hair. Think "cookie", especially a cookie with brown sugar, sugar, corn syrup, sugar again and corn syrup solids, to name but a few, and you think, "No thanks. I'll have a granola bar, instead."

Or how about this:

Reduced fat milk, sugar, nonfat milk, high fructose corn syrup, strawberry puree, modified corn starch, kosher gelatin, natural flavor, potassium sorbate, camine, vitamin A acetate, vitamin D3, lactic acid esters of mono and diglycerides, nitrogen.

That would be Yoplait Lowfat Yogurt Mousse. Note the word: "Yogurt." And "Lowfat" which, says the label, has a "Light & Fluffy TEXTURE." The word "texture" is a line below in itty-bitty lowfat font highlighting the light and fluffy. All of which translates into: "A healthy and lowfat dieter's delight." No question, if you eat a few of the 140 calorie tubs (and little else) you will lose weight (and maybe get a heaping of diabetes, what with the sugar and all).

By now, you're probably thinking "OK, the lesson here is read the ingredients list, right?" Actually, no. The fingers of the marketing clan have worked their magic there, too. You see, I edited the ingredients list to the actual ingredients. You know, oats, milk, sugar and so forth. But the real labels start differently.

The Quaker bar list actually starts with "GRANOLA." You see the word and the trigger goes off...you're already in health mode. Add the next ingredient "whole grain rolled oats..." and you stop, convinced, and purchase a box. As for Yoplait? The first ingredient is (and I kid you not) is "Lowfat Strawberry Yogurt." Strawberries? What strawberries? Fifth on the list, after high fructose corn syrup, they do list "strawberry puree." Is that it?? The second ingredient is ornamentally described as: "Cultured pasteurized grade A reduced fat milk." Personally, I'd call the entire ensemble "Strawberry flavored dairy dessert," but who's asking.

So, what's the solution? Yes, read the label! By all means. But read to the end and stay alert! You never know what you're really getting.

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Biography Communications expert, author, and entrepreneur Susan F. Benjamin is founder of Greater Voice Enterprises. Her short features and interviews with everyone from Hollywood celebrities to leading thinkers are aired online and on am/fm (more...)
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