Friday, September 3, 2010

It's not so different after all.

This might be a controversial post. It might upset you. You might want to argue with me and you may want me to be wrong because it effects your worldview. In the interest of education, I'd really like to share some thoughts with you.

MamaPea, of Peasandthankyou is a high-raw, vegan mom with two cute and spunky little girls. She has been taking reader requests for food makeovers recently. She takes a grocery-store or restaurant treat and makes it over to be vegan and healthier. It's a really cool process, and I am totally supportive of homemade treats as opposed to processed treats. I also think that the best way to stick to a healthy diet is to find a way to make or fit your favorite foods into your eating habits. For MamaPea's family, vegan treats are the way to go.

Her recent post was a remake of oatmeal creme pies. I actually did occasionally eat this processed treat as a child, and I was pleased to see how similar the remake looked. You can check it out on this post.

Before debuting the recipe, she showed the ingredient breakdown of the original product. It looks like this:

Corn Syrup, Enriched Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1] Riboflavin [Vitamin B2] Folic Acid) Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil with TBHQ to Preserve Flavor, Dextrose, Water, Oats, Sugar, Molasses, Raisins, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Ammonium Bicarbonate) Whey [Milk] Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, Mono and Diglycerides, Sorbitan Monostearate, Polysorbate 60) Salt, Cornstarch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Eggs, Interesterfied Palm and Palm Kernel Oils, Soybean Oil, Sorbic Acid (To Retain Freshness), Cocoa, Colors (Caramel Color, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Beta Carotene, Turmeric, Annatto Extract, Yellow 5), Egg Whites, Citric Acid, Pectin, Sodium Citrate, Coconut (Sulfite Treated to Preserve Color), Evaporated Apples (Sulfite Treated to Preserve Color), Nonfat Dry Milk, Carrageenan, Spices, Rice Flour.

And then she showed the recipe.

And then something clicked in my head.

Because I was really expecting the ingredient list to be super different from the processed snack foods. In my head, homemade food is make with flour, sugar, butter, etc. While processed food is made with soy lecithin and niacin.

The problem is: I know better than that. I perused the new veganized recipe and mentally started to compare it to the ingredients list that she provided. I found that of the approximately 51 ingredients listed on the panel, approximately 34 were also in the revised recipe. That's about 2/3 of the original ingredients.

I'm a nerd, so I color-coded it for easy reference. I made some assumptions. I assumed that dairy-free milk was probably almond or soy, but could've been rice or another form as well. I also assumed that caramel color was in the vanilla extract, since it commonly is found in even pure vanilla extracts. Otherwise, it's pretty self-explainatory.

Color Code:

Yellow: Remains in new recipe
Fuchsia: Is a naturally occuring component of the new recipe
Cyan: May be included in the new recipe, but is dependent on which brands/ingredients were used.

There are a few things I want to highlight:

1) The most glaring thing that changes is the loss of all dairy and egg products from the recipe. Nonfat dry milk, Whey protein, eggs. Those are out.

2) I don't know why this company didn't drop trans fats when everyone else did, but I'm sure the new recipe is trans-fat free, while this one glaringly uses partially hydrogenated oils. Same with corn syrup. Those are out.

3) This is when it gets more interesting. See the long list of ingredients after the Bleached Enriched Flour? And how they are retained in the new recipe? Well, the new recipe uses whole wheat flour, which naturally has most of those components.Same is true after Leavening. Those chemicals are in household leavening agents. Dextrose is a component of table sugar and is actually better for you than table sugar. It would be like using brown rice syrup, which people generally accept as healthier than table sugar.

4) The vegan recipe uses Earth Balance, which is vegan Smart Balance. It has soy emulsifiers like lechitin and and colorants like B-carotene and annatto. Those are completely normal and natural. They just have chemical names.

5) Citric acid and citrates are common preservatives and would be in any non-dairy milk. They might also be in the marshmallow creme substance too.

I'm going to stop now. I think you can draw similar conclusions. My Point? Chemical names seem scary, but they are just ultra-descriptive terms for a lot of real food items. Even if we completely homemake a processed food, it may have many of the same ingredients. We just won't know it.

I completely agree that the new recipe is an improvement over the old. I was just surprised how similar  the actual ingredients are in the long run. Maybe you're surprised too?

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