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Just Because It’s At The Healthfood Store…


I was in California last week- bet you didn't even know- for a working vacay.

One of the sites on the itinerary was the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim. This event was absolutely insane. In five hours and I only got through half the show. I had the amazing opportunity to catch up with the delight that is Julie Morris who was putting a smile on the Navitas booth (who you know I adore), kicked it with Jennifer, the founder of Wean Green who sponsored our giveaway a few weeks back, and even ran in to Mark from Giddy Yoyo- there all the way from Toronto- showing off his best ever raw chocolate bars. I chatted with the amazing chef, Frank Giglio, who I've met a few times, and made some sweet contacts for products I hope to soon be bringing to you.

Here's the thing though- of the 1,000+ products/brands and vendors that filled the Anaheim convention centre, there were maybe two dozen worth taking a second look at. The number of 'new' bottled water companies is astounding, as is the number of superfood companies or 'high antioxidant' chocolate. And of course- there were the loads of the healthwashing brand claims that are truly criminal.

I am a health food store junkie- so these kinds of events are like a trip to Disneyland for me. The challenge, though is that there is so little real food actually at the healthfood store.  Really, really good for you food is never going to come pre-made and packaged. As soon as it goes into a package- there will be some nutritional compromise. Depending on the product, some will be worse than others. Reading ingredient labels is a tricky skill that few people have.

The truth of the matter is that a nutrition panel means absolutely nothing. It's the ingredient list that counts. I understand the challenges you have at the supermarket. You walk down aisles and aisles and don't have time to read all the ingredient lists. You do your best to trust what's splashed across the label and are then led to believe that Tofurkey is a better choice than an organic meat something or other, and that pop chips are actually good for you.

What becomes even more confusing is when you enter your supermarket and there is the regular aisles and then the 'natural foods' section way over in the corner, likely with a header painted to brown because brown is natural, right?

Be warned- just because it's at the health food store, or in the natural foods aisle, doesn't make it health food or natural.

Curious what those labels actually mean?

Your Guide To Decoding Healthwashing Claims

  • Organic. Any multi-ingredient product bearing the USDA Organic seal must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. But the federal certification process is voluntary -and not every product that claims to be organic undergoes such scrutiny.
  • Made with organic ingredients. At least 70% of the ingredients must be organic. The product cannot carry the USDA Organic seal.
  • Non- or -free. Must have less than the following per serving: fat (0.5 gram), sugar (0.5 gram), cholesterol (2mg), or sodium (5mg).
  • Low-. Generally, the product must have less than the following per serving: fat (3 grams), cholesterol (20 mg), or sodium (140 mg).
  • Reduced. Generally, the product must have at least 25% less of the given component than is typically found in that type of food.
  • Light. If at least half of the product's calories come from fat, fat must be reduced by at least 50% per serving. If less than half of the calories are from fat, fat must be reduced at least 50%, or calories reduced at least 33%, per serving.
  • Reduced, Added, Extra, Plus, Fortified,Enriched. These claims can be made relative to a similar representative product.
  • High, Rich In, Excellent SourceOf. All designate products with at least 20% of the recommended daily amount per serving.
  • Good Source, ContainsProvides. The product must have more than 10% but less than 20% of the recommended daily amount per serving.
  • More, Fortified, Enriched, Added, ExtraPlus. For vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber with at least 10% of the recommended amount per serving.
  • Lean. Generally, less than 10 grams of fat.
  • Extra lean. Less than 5 grams of fat.
  • Certified Humane. A label for products made by non-profit organizations dedicated to humane treatment of animals. To use the label, animals must have been given no growth hormones or antibiotics, or lived in cages, crates, or stalls; and must have had "access to sufficient, clean, and nutritious feed and water.
  • Naturally raised. A recent USDA standard for animals raised without growth hormones or anitbiotics.
  • Natural. A term regulated only for meats and poultry -- containing no artificial flavors, colors, or chemical preservatives -- and otherwise meaningless.

Some label terms, although truthful, have little or no real meaning, no standards for definition -and a high potential to confuse consumers:

  • Contains antioxidants
  • Doctor-recommended
  • Free-range (can mean anything from an animal that roams freely to one that is let out of its cage from time to time)
  • Green
  • Immunity formula
  • Kid-approved
  • Made with whole grains
  • May lower cholesterol
  • Natural (for non-meat or -poultry products)
  • Natural goodness
  • No trans fat
  • Non-toxic
  • Parent-tested
  • Strengthens your immune system
So then, what the best strategy? You guessed it- do as much as you can from scratch. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? YES!!!
You also might want to check out our brand new and still growing list of "Meghan Approved" brands.
And to keep my heart from breaking at the thought of you eating either Popchips or Tofurkey, or any of the hundreds of other health washed products out there- here are two recipes to make and keep on hand.

Chip Chips

by Meghan Telpner

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Keywords: bake snack dairy-free gluten-free low-sodium nut-free soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian whole food

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 1 tortilla of choice
  • 1-2 Tbs of olive oil
  • 1 tsp herbs of choice (see below)
  • pinch of salt
  • Seasoning ideas:
  • Lemon juice + cayenne
  • Curry powder and mint
  • Coriander +Cumin
  • Basil and sundried tomato (chopped very fine)
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Whatever you have growing in your garden (or on your windowsill)


  • Heat oven to 350.
  • Cut tortilla either with knife of scissors into desired shapes, I usually end up with a mix of triangles and squares.
  • Toss with olive oil, salt and seasoning.
  • Lay out on a cookie sheet (lightly oiled or coated in parchment paper, a pizza pan with holes also works really well).
  • Bake for about 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Allow to cool slightly and enjoy!
  • Will stay for about a week in the fridge, you may need to give it a light toasting again to re-crisp them.


Choose Your Own Adventure Burger

by Meghan Telpner

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Keywords: bake entree dairy-free gluten-free low-sodium soy-free sugar-free vegetarian beans celery shiitake mushroom cabbage whole food


Ingredients (serves 12)

  • 2 cups, black beans cooked (one can or once cup dried, soaked and cooked)
  • 1 cup shitake mushroom, sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, ground
  • 1 egg OR 1 Tbs flax seed, ground + 1/4 water: stir together as egg replacer
  • 1 Tbs curry powder
  • 1 Tbs basil, dry
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Options:
  • Beans: use beans of choice: kidney, adzuki, chickpea, butterbean…
  • Leafy vegetable: instead of cabbage try kale, collards, spinach…
  • Flour: try quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, coconut…
  • Seed/Nut: instead of pumpkin seeds try ground almonds, walnuts, flax, pecan, sesame or mix


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a food processor, process together the beans, mushrooms and broccoli until well mixed, but not completely mashed together. Tranfer to large mixing bowl.
  • In a food process, process together cabbage, onion, celery and garlic until well mixed, transfer to mixing bowl.
  • Add curry powder, sea salt, chickpea flour, basil and pumpkin seeds, oil and mix thoroughly.
  • Add in egg or egg replacer and again mix. If you feel the mixture is too moist, you may wish to add a little more flour.
  • Form into patties on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 20 mins, flip patties over and bake for another ten minutes until patty is dry on the outside and holds together.

Question Of The Day: Of the above decoded healthwashing claims, what do you find most deceptive?


35 Responses to “Just Because It’s At The Healthfood Store…”

  1. Laurie said…
    Meghan, you are the friendliest-looking angry person I've ever seen! Too funny, particularly when you're dealing with such a serious topic. Thanks once again for helping us to laugh at the ridiculousness of seriousness!
  2. Interesting RT @meghantelpner: The ONLY time you will see me look this angry...thanks, #healthwashing.
  3. Karin said…
    Yay Eleanor! Thank you for taking a look at those books! I don't know what health issues you've had so I would never even try to comment on that. Everyone's situation is different and you do what you have to do to get better. But if you're able, I think the changes outlined in these book could make a huge impact in your life. There's really so much info available right now. Ethical issues aside, the diseases and health problems that animal products cause is astounding. PS. Another great book that I found to be a real life changer is "Crazy Sexy Diet" by Kris Carr. You should look her up. Her story is truly amazing. Check out her documentary, "Crazy Sexy Cancer".
  4. Have you checked out my #guide to decoding #Healthwashing?
  5. @FitTrition said…
    Here is one of my favorite nutritionista decoding those "healthy" food labels...
  6. A lot of interesting #discussion in the comment section here: #health
  7. Who knew #Tofurkey has such die hard fans? Still #barftown to me.
  8. Ayngelina said…
    Great post Meghan - I just wanted to share with your readers a video from Michael Pollan, he believes it is possible to feed the world with organic food
  9. [...] most situations, and believe people do things with the best of intentions… until it comes to healthwashers. Healthwashing is pervasive in the media and the supermarket- where a claim is made that something [...]
  10. Andrea Brennan-Doucette said…
    Fantastic read! BTW, I need those healthwashing definitions on a t-shirt. I would wear it 24/7. ❤️

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