You gotta hand it to Madison Avenue. It’s not easy to stretch the truth to make a buck. Is that American ingenuity...or just proof that you can fool some of the people some of the time?

You won’t be one of them. Here’s the latest crop of tricky food and supplement ads.

Smooth move

smoothie king ad

“Not now. Not ever,” says the Smoothie King ad. “We promise. Whole fruits & organic veggies go in. Syrups, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives never will.”

Very clever. The ad’s long list of “No-No” ingredients looks impressive.

So what if we’ve never seen some of them (like sodium nitrite) in smoothies? Or if others (like partially hydrogenated oils and cyclamates) have been banned in this country? Or if others (like soy) are perfectly safe?

Here’s what the ad leaves out: Along with those “whole fruits,” Smoothie King adds fruit juice to roughly half of its smoothies. And those liquid calories are more likely to lead to weight gain than munching on the fruit they came from.

What’s more, about a quarter of the chain’s smoothies have added sugar (“turbinado”), sugary frozen yogurt, or sugar-drenched strawberries. And two protein powders (Gladiator, Lean1) that are added to some smoothies contain the questionable artificial sweetener sucralose (which—surprise!—is absent from the No-No list).

The bottom line: Most of Smoothie King’s largest (40 oz.) smoothies have 400 to 800 calories. And even some of the smallest (20 oz.) are more than a snack.

Whole fruits & veggies, anyone?

Bran new spin

Raisin Bran ad


“Real honey. Whole-grain oats. A new spin on Kellogg’s Raisin Bran.”

It’s a new spin, all right...a more-sugar, less-fiber spin.

Each cup of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Toasted Oats & Honey has 3 teaspoons of added sugar and more white rice than oats. (Original Raisin Bran has 2 tsp. of added sugar and no rice.) That leaves less room for fiber-rich bran.

As for the company’s four other spin-offs (Raisin Bran with Bananas or with Cranberries and Raisin Bran Crunch Original or Vanilla Almond), think of them all as Sugary White Rice Raisin Bran.

A better new spin: Toss fruit into any brand’s bran flakes.

The whole truth?

naturelo ad

“Naturelo has vitamin E from sunflowers,” says the woman in the multivitamin’s TV ad. “Ours has retinyl palmitate,” counters the other company’s lab-coated scientist.

“Organic broccoli, carrots, and blueberries,” says the woman. “Pyridoxine hydrochloride,” says the scientist.

That’s vitamin B-6. Maybe Naturelo forgot that its Whole Food Multivitamin for Women gets most of its B-6 from pyridoxal-5-phosphate, not blueberries.

That's no surprise, since each four-capsule “serving” of the multi has only 200 milligrams of “organic fruit & vegetable blend.” That’s about 1∕20 of a teaspoon, we estimate.

Pricey vitamins—Naturelo costs $47 a month—can’t replace fruits and veggies. Looking for a multivitamin? Many cost far less. Looking for whole food? Hit the grocery store.

B vitamin baloney

Starbucks ad

“Introducing Starbucks Coffee with Essential Vitamins,” says the TV ad. “The taste you love blended with five essential B vitamins. To help support a healthy metabolism and keep your body running at its best.”

It’s the old dump-in-a-few-unnecessary-vitamins ploy.

Thiamin (B-1) and niacin (B-3) are added to most white flour, so we already get plenty. And virtually no one runs short on pantothenic acid (B-5) or biotin (B-7). To get a biotin deficiency, you’d have to eat excessive amounts of raw (but not cooked) egg whites for months.

Added B-12 might be useful for people over 50, some of whom produce too little stomach acid to absorb the naturally occurring B-12 in foods. But Starbucks adds only 20 percent of a day’s worth per serving. Take a multivitamin instead.

And forget that “healthy metabolism” baloney. Don’t count on extra B vitamins to help you burn more calories or feel more energetic.

“Get more from the cup you love,” says the ad. Get more of the overcrowded coffee market sounds more like it.

Sweet dreams

honey ad

“Honey is good for me,” says the National Honey Board’s ad, noting that the sweetener is a “delicious source” of vitamins and minerals.

Maybe if you eat it by the cup.

A one-tablespoon serving of honey, on the other hand, has an insignificant amount (less than 2 percent of a day’s worth) of just about any nutrient, according to the USDA.

The notable exceptions: it’s got 60 calories and a third of a day’s sugar (honey counts as “added sugar”). Sheesh.

The fine print

cheerios ad

“The shape that stole your heart is back,” says the Cheerios ad.

As the tiny print at the bottom says, eating 3 grams a day of soluble fiber from whole-grain oat foods may reduce the risk of heart disease.

The catch: A serving of original Cheerios has just 1 gram, notes the ad’s fine print, so you’d have to eat three servings a day. And the other four flavors—Blueberry, Chocolate, Cinnamon, and Honey Nut—have just “.75 grams.” So now we’re talking four servings a day. (Each serving has 2½ to 3 teaspoons of added sugar, which leaves less room for oats.)

Miss that decimal point, and it looks like 75 grams! Of course, the ad could have written “0.75 grams” to avoid confusion. Probably just an honest mistake.

Just say no

pure leaf ad

“At Pure Leaf, saying no is the most important ingredient in making herbal iced tea,” says the TV ad. “By selecting the finest botanicals, we say no caffeine, no stress, no better way to relax after a long day of...anything. No is beautiful.”

Oops. Pure Leaf forgot “no sugar.” The teas in the ad—Mango Hibiscus and Raspberry Chamomile—have 27 grams (6½ teaspoons) of added sugars in each 18.5 oz. bottle.

Why not show the Unsweetened  Mango Hibiscus? No sugar is beautiful.