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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. Just Because It’s At The Healthfood Store…: I was in California last week- bet you didn't even know- for a worki...
  2. Erica said…
    Tofurky products are without a doubt processed foods, but when my kids are begging for hotdogs, if the only other option is real hotdogs filled with questionnable animal parts and nitrites, I'll take the Tofurky franks any day. I agree these foods should be eaten in moderation, but there are far worse products out there. Unlike Popchips and other snack foods, at least they have some nutritional value.
    • Erin said…
      Agreed. Sure, it's nice to be able to make your own, and I usually do, but Tofurkey products are certainly superior, nutritionally and ethically, to their animal-based counterparts.
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      On this we may have to agree to disagree. From my nutritional training (which was actually stressed along the vegan lines), there is actually more harm done to human and environmental health by consuming processed GMO soy:
      • Bethany said…
        Have to agree with Meghan on this one - soy is very damaging on many levels. If your kids are begging for hot dogs, there are plenty of options that are soy-free but aren't made from the waste that regular hot dogs are. Real sausages, for instance, are a good option and you can get them organic (though my preference is from local farmers, whether organic or not). They even make them that are the same size as hot dogs - I have several packages in my freezer as we speak.
      • Erica said…
        Doesn't the Tofurky signage say that they use non-GMO, organic soy? I totally agree that this is not food to be eaten liberally, but I suspect the high sodium content is more concern than anything else. Do you have any research you can provide about the negative health effects of GMO soy? In an ideal world, all our food would be grown organically. But from what I have read, we cannot feed the world population that way and many GMO practices allow us to produce more food for those who face food scarcity. And I would argue that food scarcity is a bigger problem globally than Tofurky hotdog consumption. For people facing food scarcity in our country, organic meat is out of reach. Tofurky products probably are too for that matter. It just seems elitist and idealistic to think we can get everyone eating 100% organic food, and maca and goji berries. Why don't we start by focusing on policies to reduce salt and sugar (as you have said before), and completely eliminate trans fat. I am also all for making stricter rules for the health claims that companies can make on their products. And of course, probably most importantly, alleviating poverty has a big role in improving the nutritional status and health within most populations.
        • Meghan Telpner said…
          There has been much propaganda by the makers of GMO that these are needed to feed the hungry. Food scarcity is certainly not for a lack of food being produced- it's a question of poverty and availability. I highly recommend looking into the work of Jeffrey Smith or perhaps having a listen of my podcast with him. It's the complete other side of the argument and perhaps might offer you some insights as well as to other options available to ensure quality food security for all. Growing food like soy- which isn't even edible off the farm and requires massive amounts of fossil fuels to process into food hasn't done the job so far.
          • Erica said…
            I will look into Smith's work. Likewise, check out the research by Joe Schwarcz and his team at McGill University. I'm not saying GMO is a great thing, but if your problem with Tofurky is the use of GMO soy, they apparently do not do so (unless they are lying).
      • Jill said…
        Tofurkey uses organic soybeans, there is no GMO soy in their products as well as their Tempeh as that is also available. The sodium content isn't high 170mg per serving HOWEVER I noticed "yeast extract" on the ingredients of many of their products and this may be why. I would argue that it is healthier than corn fed meat (GMO), but grass fed organic beef may be slightly healthier but certainly not more ethical as it still requires eating a once living breathing sentient being.
  3. Karin said…
    "Certified Humane" and "Humane Slaughter" is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as the "humane" slaughter of any animal. Anyone who buys meat thinking these animals are living a wonderful, happy, full life on an idyllic farm in the sunshine are in total denial. To quote Paul McCartney, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian". And I would take this one step further. If everyone saw the devastation that the dairy industry causes, everyone would be vegan. This is the healthwashing campaign that makes me the most angry. It's time for people to wake up and see the misery and suffering they are causing. Time to take off the blinders.
    • Pat said…
      I'm with you, Karin. Got guilt? America
    • Bethany said…
      I gotta disagree with you there. It is absolutely possible to humanely slaughter animals - I myself have done it. Humane does not mean you aren't taking a life - humane means that you aren't doing it indiscriminately, being extra careful that the animal you are slaughtering doesn't have to endure unnecessary pain, being appreciative of the fact that it was once alive. Commercial slaughterhouses are horrible, horrible places. The animals are generally slaughtered by machines. Sometimes those machines "miss" and then the animal gets processed alive. It's absolutely horrid. Having said that, your local farmer who slaughters and processes their own meat and poultry is a completely different scenario. Humane slaughter? You bet.
      • Eleanor said…
        Totally agree with you Bethany. I have no access to properly farmed meats and poultry so I don't consume them and haven't for a while, but if I had the access I would absolutely eat it, guilt free. I do get eggs that were obtained very humanely from a friend who keeps chickens that live a nice happy life outside. And yes, she does slaughter some of them for food for her family. It's definitely not the prettiest of sights, but it's not a painfully terrifying one either... unlike the footage I've seen of modern farms and slaughter houses. These chickens' lives (and deaths) and the eggs they laid can absolutely be considered humane (and more nutritionally dense!) when compared to what goes on on a commercial level and what you buy at a supermarket. As humans developed we consuming meat. That and the fact that our bodies take a very long time to adjust and evolve are very important things to considerer. Meat can be part of both a healthy diet and a ecologically aware lifestyle. And while in our modern world that focuses on mass production and convenience this is tricky, it can be done, and done humanely.
        • Karin said…
          Cheers to you Pat! :) To Bethany and Eleanor, let's just agree to disagree. I prefer to live my life with compassion for animals. I would suggest reading "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism", by Melanie Joy Ph.D. I think you both could benefit from it greatly if you read with an open mind.
          • Karin said…
            And PS. If you think eating animal products is "healthy" and "nutritious", you may want to read "The China Study" as well.
          • Eleanor said…
            I'll definitely give those a read. As far as animal products go I consume eggs, fermented dairy, bone broths and fish very occasionally and most of the time I go many weeks and even months without such things. During very digestively tough times when I couldn't handle much of any kind of food and was so worn out from lack of nutrition these were actually the foods came to my rescue and helped me heal and gain back energy. All I'm saying is that they CAN have a place in a diet, definitely don't need to or have to be wanted to, but can and have and for those who want them, there are ways to humanely obtain. I feel strongly on this based on experience but I am opened to the idea that I might be totally wrong so thank you for your recommendation on the literature :)
          • 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”.
          • Jacqueline said…
            To Karin, If you think "The China Study" is sound science, you should Google it and read (the many) criticisms of their scientific method. For one thing, you can't isolate casein from milk (which the process of doing so alone is unhealthful) and extrapolate that to all animal protein. Check out the critiques.
  4. “@meghantelpner: Just b/c It’s At The Healthfood Store… #healthwashing #wholefood" making from scratch is SO worth it!
  5. Think health food stores are free of #healthwashing? Think again.
  6. Amanda said…
    I am always amazed at how people think that just because a product is sold under Whole Food's (or other health food store) roof that it's healthy. Organic junk food is still junk food! So while it might be the lesser of two evils, it should still be considered a treat.
  7. Jayme said…
    When I grow up, I wanna be just like YOU! Love Yah Meghan! My fave line in today's blog post? 'I am a health food store junkie- so these kinds of events are like a trip to Disneyland for me.' PLUS: You got to meet Frank Giglio! Love 'em! Always a great read! Much love, **Jayme
  8. Thanks for sharing! RT @Jaymemckillop: @meghantelpner My fave blog tellin' it like it is!
  9. Erin said…
    Yup, that's why we pretty much stick to fruits/vegetables/whole foods only and we make everything ourselves from scratch. Very few packaged items in our house.
  10. Just Because It ’s At The Healthfood Store …

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