The information for this article was compiled by Suraya Bunting.

What makes your product stand out? Surely, your marketing department can think of something. You could add veggies, almond butter, probiotics, or protein...or take away something like grain or gluten. So what if it doesn’t actually make the food much healthier, as long as you make the sale? Thanks to the hype, these items look healthier than they are.


Oprah pizza

“⅓ of our classic crust is made with cauliflower,” says the label of Oprah’s O That’s Good! Classic Crust...with a Twist of Cauliflower Fire Roasted Veggie Pizza.

Too bad few people are likely to notice the small print in the corner: “One serving does not provide a significant amount (½ cup) of the USDA daily recommendations for vegetables.”

Translation: The crust, fire-roasted veggies, and tomato sauce together don’t even add up to a measly ½ cup for each ⅕-pizza serving (which has about the same calories and carbs as a similar-size serving of, say, a DiGiorno vegetable pizza).

O that’s not so good!

On the upside, Green Giant’s frozen Cauliflower Pizza Crust is “made with over 80% cauliflower” and has roughly “50% fewer calories than regular pizza crust.” (Like all cauliflower crusts, it needs something to hold itself together. Green Giant uses rice flour, corn starch, corn flour, and cornmeal.)

Simply skip it

simply smoothie

“Introducing 100% real fruit smoothies,” says Simply Smoothie’s website. “Nothing to chop or blend or clean up to enjoy this homemade taste.”

Sounds like each 180-calorie bottle of the Orchard Berry, for example, is mostly berries tossed into a blender. You should be so lucky.

The first ingredient (printed in barely legible skimpy white type) is apple juice. Then come strawberry, apple, banana, and pear purées, followed by grape juice and blueberry purée. There’s also lemon juice plus “natural flavors.”

Apparently, it’s not easy to make apple juice taste like berries.

And juice doesn’t curb your hunger like biting into a juicy piece of fresh fruit...straight from a real orchard.

Paleo chips?

garden of eating grain free tortilla chips

“Instead of using typical grains like corn or rice, our grain free paleo tortilla chips are made with root vegetables and seeds,” says Garden of Eatin’ Grain Free Tortilla Chips.

Which root vegetables? There’s just one: cassava—“a starchy root vegetable that is a major staple carbohydrate in various countries,” says the bag.

Sounds a lot like some other root vegetable. Oh yeah. Potatoes. Maybe someone could make chips out of them, too!

Probiotic ploy

culture republic probiotics

“3 billion live cultures for your microbiome,” says the Culture Republick + Probiotics Turmeric Chai & Cinnamon Light Ice Cream label.

Just what we need—a new reason to eat more ice cream! Why stop at a 160-calorie serving (⅔ cup) when you can eat the entire 470-calorie pint and get all 3 billion cultures at once?

Actually, Culture Republick does less damage than most ice creams. It’s just that the probiotic (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086) doesn’t seem to do much for your gut or GI symptoms. The evidence—partly funded by the probiotic’s manufacturer—is unimpressive.

What does it do? Help sell foods like ice cream, chocolate, granola, trail mix, bars, and chips.

Veggies made gimmick

garden lites double chocolate muffins

“Veggies: our #1 ingredient,” says the Veggies Made Great Double Chocolate Muffins box.

Yes, zucchini and carrots are the first two ingredients, followed mostly by sugar, egg whites, eggs, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and corn starch. (The muffins are gluten-free.)

But the vegetables are #1 only because they’re about 90 percent water, which makes them heavy.

That’s one reason to eat veggies: They fill you up without many calories. Bake ‘em into a double chocolate muffin, though, and you’re not eating veggies made great. You’re eating a double chocolate muffin with a clever marketing shtick.

Almond candy?

Justins almond butter covered almonds

Golly! Justin’s Almond Butter Covered Almonds seems to have wrapped organic almonds in organic almond butter.

What an impeccable snack!

Except that the “almond butter” coating has more rice starch, palm kernel oil, and cane sugar than almond butter. And each bag holds three 1 oz. servings, so you could easily swallow its 540 calories without noticing.

Why not just eat almonds?


clio blueberry greek yogurt bar

What are those little boxes next to the yogurts in the dairy case?

“We’re the type of people who eat yogurt with our hands,” says the Clio Blueberry Greek Yogurt Bar package.

Huh? Since when is a “yogurt bar” the same as a yogurt?

They may have about the same calories (140), but many of the bar’s calories come from blueberry jam and chocolate (mostly cocoa, sugar, and palm oil) instead of yogurt.

That’s why each Clio bar has only 4 percent of a day’s calcium, rather than the 15 percent in a typical (5.3 oz.) greek yogurt. (Whey boosts Blueberry Clio’s protein to 8 grams—still not quite the 10 to 12 grams in a flavored greek yogurt.)

“Real food needs refrigeration,” says Clio. Real food? If it weren’t for that added protein (and the live cultures), a Clio would be closer to a Mini Klondike bar than a yogurt.

Dessert hummus

boar's head dessert hummus

“Enjoy with fruit, pretzels & crackers,” says Boar’s Head Dark Chocolate Dessert Hummus.

Yup. It’s finally happened. Someone has turned hummus into dessert. All it took was some sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract.

The Chocolate Raspberry flavor is a “seasonal selection.” Maybe its raspberries go out of season, but aren’t its “raspberry powder” and “raspberry flavor” available all year long?

Even with 6 or 7 grams of added sugar in just two tablespoons, dessert hummus beats frosting. Of course, hummus beats dessert hummus. But remember: a serving (of any hummus) is only two level tablespoons...and around 70 or 80 calories. For a lot of folks, that’s just the beginning.

Photos: Kaamilah Mitchell/CSPI.