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I Had NO IDEA There Was So Much Sodium, Fat, HFCS In This!

The other day, I gathered ingredients to make a delicious paella at home for guests. I decided to consult several recipes for ingredients and preparation methods. I decided to use clam juice to boost the flavor of my paella, but when I looked at the label of my bottle, I was SHOCKED at what I saw! Each serving of clam juice had 70 mg of sodium, and the 8 oz. bottle (or there abouts) had 16 servings in it! Let me see.....that's A LOT of salt!
I used the clam juice, but used absolutely no other salt (which is unusual for me to not flavor as I go along), and the end product was very good. But, thank goodness I read that label.

I've watched numerous food shows use clam juice, and they just pour it in with no mention of how salty it can be--so be very careful when you use this. Depending on the brand, you could be adding over a day's worth of salt to your dish.

Another recent shocker I got was when using a can of sloppy joe sauce. On days when I'm just lazy, I occassionally reach into the pantry for help. Well, I'm seriously reconsidering doing this blindly. My can of sloppy joe sauce had 800 mg of sodium, and 10 grams of sugar per 1/4 cup serving. So, the product is almost 86% carbs, most of which come from HFCS, and well over a day's allotment of sodium.

I threw it out.

I know that I have been trying to eat more healthy, avoid processed foods which are loaded with HFCS, sodium, transfats, other not-good-for-you-fats and artificial flavors and preservatives. And yeah, this significantly restricts many pre-packages, processed, convenience foods.

I'm on a mission to clean out my pantry (within reason) to teach myself a lesson: read the labels more carefully!

What products have you bought, or wanted to buy, have shocked you with how much sodium, hfcs, fat etc they are loaded with? What have you put down, not bought, or simply thrown away because you were so appalled by how unhealthy it is? A "never again" moment?

I don't mean condiments and things that should be used as condiments, such as ketchup and mustard (although, seriously, I need to curb my ketchup intake or make my own!).

ps...I remember years and years ago, I loved to buy little cans of deviled ham and eat it on crackers. I acutally thought I was being healthful and diet-conscious. Until, one day, I read the label on that "little" can and found that it had something like 24 grams of fat. Wow!

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  1. Ah-Ha moment - two cans of Contadina Tomato Paste, side-by-side at the grocery store. One is labeled "Tomato Paste" and the other is called "Tomato Paste with Italian Herbs".

    Checking the labels (I wanted to know what "Italian Herbs" were included), I was shocked to read the following:
    TOMATO PASTE ingredient list: Tomatoes
    TOMATO PASTE with Italian Herbs ingredient list: was longer than the Manhattan phone book with either the first or second ingredient = HFCS. I pulled my hand back like I'd been bitten. No, I didn't buy it then nor have I ever bought this product.

    Rinsing beans is automatic because of the sodium content. I don't have many processed foods in my pantry and I've been careful to read labels ever since this lesson.

    I was shopping for a local food bank donation and saw the Sloppy Joe canned stuff and thought that might be a good idea to include. I was appalled when I read that the directions that instructed the cook to "Brown one pound of ground meat" (bought separately). Naively, I had assumed that a can of Sloppy Joe would be a can containing Sloppy Joes. Instead it was a can of heavily sugared-salted tomato sauce for almost two dollars not including any meat.

    Two lessons learned and a part of the reason I'm a committed Farmers' Market shopper.

    34 Replies
    1. re: Sherri

      Sherri-that's EXACTLY what happened to me with the sloppy joe sauce. I thought I was buying sloppy joe in a can, but when I poured the contents into a saucepan to heat, I thought "wow, this is really thin! Where's the beef?". Then, of course, I read the label and threw the crap out.
      Tomato Paste- very, very interesting. Wow. Never, never would have seen that coming. I guess they put flavor boosters in the paste in lieu of real herbs. Sad.

      And yeah...I'm a farmers market fan for sure! I just get lazy some times and fall back on old habits. But, you know, I'm glad this happened, because it has made me even more commited to "real" foods as much as I can.
      Old habits die hard, though.

      1. re: monavano

        Through the years, I've built a list of "emergency" meals that I can always make with ingredients on hand. Yes, I keep a well-stocked pantry of non-perishables that can be made into meals. I also have a large freezer. This works well and eliminates the need for garbage backup items that really should not be fed to one's beloved pet.

        In the ALWAYS ON HAND in the pantry Category:
        different types of pasta
        dried beans
        rice, (long grain, basmati, arborio, brown)
        polenta, grits, cornmeal
        canned tomatoes + tomato paste
        canned beans (several varieties)
        canned tuna
        artichoke hearts & bottoms (water-packed)
        capers, olives
        mole sauce
        coconut milk
        beef, chicken & veg broth
        flour, sugar, yeast etc.
        oils - olive, peanut, sesame (toasted)
        dried herbs & spices
        dried fruit
        wines, cognac, etc

        Staples, may be stored in the fridge/freezer, include:
        carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes
        butter
        mustards, mayonnaise, Mexican sauces
        some kind of pork - prosciutto, pancetta and/or bacon
        cheeses
        frozen spinach
        bread, rolls, tortillas
        jams
        ETC

        I tried to make this the ALWAYS list, not the USUALLY list. I *usually* also have milk, cream, eggs, herbs, green vegetables, OJ and lots of other things available but not 100% of the time, especially when returning from a trip. With my *always* list, I can make a risotto or pasta or stuffed baked potato in less than half hour, about the time it takes to drink a glass of wine. If I'm lucky and have extras on hand, a vegetable fritatta is possible or carbonara or pseudo-minestrone .......... If I were feeling especially ambitious, I could make a cheese souffle but, even though it is relatively quick to assemble, a cheese souffle doesn't fall into my "emergency" category. My fallback is usually pasta of some sort. By the time the water is boiling, I can assemble whatever tweaks our tastebuds and be at table in less than 30 minutes (No, I'm NOT Rachel Ray!) but I try to shoot for under one half hour, especially if everyone is hungry. I would so much rather cook than eat processed, bagged or boxed food of uncertain provenence.

        Edit: Upon re-reading, I realize that I did not include anything sweet. Certainly some pecans can be candied, cookied baked, dried fruit made into a compote or even a flan baked if I'm feeling ambitiuos. Generally, I'd rather have another glass of wine .......

        1. re: Sherri

          Since you keep the broth in the pantry, I assume it's purchased . Check the ingredients on the label - you may begin to make your own.

          1. re: alwayscooking

            The low-sodium broth is for emergencies only. My freezer is also full of homemade - better flavor and I know what went into it. Living in the AZ desert, I make quite a lot of stock during our cooler weather because it is a take-to-the-bank certainty that I won't be making any for the next few months. Thanks for the "heads-up".

            1. re: Sherri

              I live in AZ too. I make my stock in a crockpot. It comes out a lovely, clear golden color and doesn't add any significant heat to the house.

              1. re: Jen76

                What a brilliant idea! You've just revolutionized my life. Thank you for a great truc.

      2. re: Sherri

        So wait, you think it would be better to have some sort of weird canned meat than adding the seasoned sauce to fresh cooked beef?

        1. re: Sherri

          I'm from Canada, and I noticed the same thing with a tomato sauce with Italian herbs. Full of ingredients I don't want. Also, it drives me crazy when a pasta sauce promotes itself as healthy, "low fat", or "no fat", and then you read the ingredients and see there's corn syrup added to it. That, to me, is deception.

          All this sweetness is not necessary; but it makes people eat more and want it more. Otherwise KFC's cole slaw wouldn't taste like dessert!!! There are a whopping 18 grams of sugar per serving. I noticed my husband scarfing it down one day, and asked myself why he likes cole slaw so much. So, I tried some, and I couldn't believe how disgustingly sweet it was; he hadn't even noticed that--just that it tasted good!!!

          I won't eat it, and I won't let him, anymore, hahahaha!

          1. re: Full tummy

            Keep an eye out for Tim Hortons receipts in his pants pockets. He may be satisfying that sweet tooth on the way to work.

            I'm reminded of the Chicken Cordon Blues by folk singer Steve Goodman
            http://www.lyricstime.com/steve-goodm...

            "Babe, I'm goin down to the bakery
            And I'm going to find me a jelly roll
            And some cannoli.
            Some French pastry.
            A chocolate éclair don't sound too bad.
            How about some lasagna ?
            You know fat is where it's at.
            My shadow disappears ..."

            1. re: paulj

              Hahaha, he really likes the Tim Hortons breakfast sandwiches which I found to be disgustingly greasy. Checked nutritional information at the time, and those biscuits packed an incredible amount of fat, making McD's Egg McMuffins look like health food, by comparison. I never hear him say, "how horribly greasy", or "how overwhelmingly sweet", but one can always hope...

            2. re: Full tummy

              <...it drives me crazy when a pasta sauce promotes itself as healthy, "low fat", or "no fat", and then you read the ingredients and see there's corn syrup added to it.>

              I hear you, but a sauce can be non-fat and also contain corn syrup. Corn syrup is not fat. And "healthy"...well, "healthy" isn't really a quantifiable term.

              1. re: small h

                Fully agree that corn syrup isn't fat, but is it any healthier? That is my point... It's just that at least I wouldn't expect to find corn syrup in a pasta sauce. A little olive oil, no problem.

                I just hate that feeling of looking at some brand that advertises itself as healthier, reading the ingredients, and seeing some crap; I always put it back feeling "they're trying to trick me, those buggers."

                1. re: Full tummy

                  Define "healthier." In 21st Century America, the biggest nutrition-based health concern is obesity. Fat (in any form, including olive oil) has more than twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrates (in any form, including HFCS), so in that sense, fat is less healthy. From there, you can argue about "good" fats and "bad" fats and complex carbs and simple carbs and natural sugars and processed sugars/HFCS and their purported healthiness and unhealthiness.
                  I don't think it's possible to say that any one is "unhealthy" in any absolute sense.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Actually, I fully believe that one could argue quite convincingly that olive oil is healthier than corn syrup. I have never read anything suggesting that there are any health merits whatsoever to corn syrup.

                    You could simply start by looking at the Mediterranean diet, often esteemed for its healthfulness, and with plentiful olive oil.

                    On the other hand, corn syrup has a very high glycemic index, spikes people's blood sugar, causes insulin surges, and then blood sugar drops, requiring more carb consumption. It leads to diabetes and other maladies. There is nothing to commend it.

                    1. re: Full tummy

                      Well, people need sugar, and people need fat. There's no real getting around that. I try not to exhaust myself worrying about it, or parsing the differences between fat from olive oil and fat from lard, or sugar from cane and sugar from corn. It's worthwhile to note that if you drop a pat of butter in a glass of water, you will have a beverage that is 99% fat free. So I don't pay much mind to "low fat" claims, either.

                      1. re: small h

                        People certainly do not need refined sugar of any kind!

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          need is a poor guide for how we should act. we do not need air conditioners, airplanes, or gourmet food to survive.

                            1. re: thew

                              Didn't say it was, just responding to the claim that people "need" sugar.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                but you do. your brain runs on glucose

                                1. re: thew

                                  If you eat fruits and vegetables, you don't need to add any form of refined sugar to your diet.

                                  1. re: thew

                                    Your body is a very efficient glucose converter and does all the work for you, so no need to ingest any.

                                2. re: thew

                                  "Should" is an interesting word choice. Are you saying we should use air conditioners, fly in airplanes, and eat gourmet food? Truly funny... Quite the values you have there.

                                  Those things are optional to me, and there are many people in the world who do without them. There is also a good chance that there will be a time when we "should not" do those things, owing to the excessive amount of energy they require (some would argue we have already arrived at that time), and there quite possibly will be a time when we look back and say we "should not have" done all those things.

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    I believe that the time is coming when we "can" not do these things. Energy shortages, over-fishing, and climate change are going to severely limit our food choices.

                            2. re: Full tummy

                              If glycemic index depends primarily on the ratio of glucose to fructose, then I'd expect HFCS to have about the same index as sugar and honey. Agave syrup is reported to have a low index, but it is (depending the source) close to 90% fructose. HFCS is made in that ratio, but is normally blended with regular corn syrup (glucose) to produce a sweetener similar to sugar.

                              Low fat versions of many products are higher in sugar (of some sort or other). People want taste in their food, not just good nutrition. If it tastes bland or uninteresting, they won't be repeat customers. To a degree, sweet substitutes for fat.

                              I noted earlier the Miltons bread with lots of 'healthy' fiber (and all kinds of 'heart' labels), is also pretty high in sugar (and none of that is HFCS).

                              1. re: paulj

                                No doubt that sugar is perhaps as unhealthy as HFCS, but there seems to be mixed reporting on this, based on studies, and I haven't read on the topic exhaustively, though I expect at some point down the road, we will have a better understanding of just how these various sweeteners affect the body.

                                I try to eat foods that derive flavour from something other than sugar, when possible. Pasta sauce, which is what I have been talking about should be flavourful enough that it does not need sugar. The addition of sugar, in my opinion, is a way of putting fewer quality, more expensive ingredients into the product, or a way of increasing profits by encouraging people to eat more. Either way, it's a financial decision. It is easy to get swayed into thinking a little sugar here, a little sugar there is o.k. Before you know it, you're eating huge quantities of something that isn't good for you, in any quantity. That is a reality. Sugar is not good for us. Fructose is marginally better, but it comes with a fruit package that is full of healthy things, including fibre.

                                The cereals I mentioned before, Jordans and Dorset, are both very low in sugar, though they have added dried fruits, and in at least one case, there is some sugar added to the fruit. That said, it is a lot lower in sugar than more popular cereals; when i first tasted them, I wondered whether my tastes could adjust. I now find them very flavourful and enjoy them.

                                You are absolutely right that something has to be flavourful; I just think that this approach to marketing food can result in a slippery nutritional slope.

                                1. re: Full tummy

                                  <Sugar is not good for us. Fructose is marginally better...>

                                  Far be it from me to try to dissuade you from eating in a healthier manner. But fructose IS sugar. Fruit sugar. Tomatoes are fruit. I'm not a chemist, but it stands to reason that tomatoes contain fructose. All pasta sauce that is composed of tomatoes would thus contain fructose.

                                  1. re: small h

                                    This may be simplifying digestion too much, but basically your body uses two simple sugars - fructose and glucose. All other carbohydrates have to be reduced to one of these, or else they pass on through (which isn't a bad thing).

                                    1. re: small h

                                      Well, we're talking about sucrose, which is commonly sold as "sugar" and fructose. These are two very different types of sugars, and surprise, surprise, the body reacts differently to them.

                                      You might want to do a little reading:

                                      http://www.dietandfitnesstoday.com/gl...

                                      No matter how much you play with words, I'm sure you realize that eating tomatoes and eating sugar are different.

                                      1. re: Full tummy

                                        And I'm sure you realize that tomatoes contain sugar. Just not white sugar. I'm not playing with words, I'm employing a more precise terminology. What you're railing against is *added* sugar. And saying "fructose is marginally better" than sugar is like saying "lard is marginally better" than fat. Lard is a kind of fat. Fructose is a kind of sugar.

                                        1. re: small h

                                          Oh, absolutely. Didn't say it anywhere, I guess. Sorry to be so argumentative... Definitely fructose is a kind of sugar, as is glucose. I find it makes it difficult to be precise when sucrose is sold and listed as "sugar", and fructose and glucose are not. The thing is that it's easier to talk about fat because there's nothing you can buy that's called "fat", so there's no confusion. It's always butter, margarine, lard, oil, vegetable oil shortening, etc. Alas, not so with sugars. Don't know the reasons why sucrose is called "sugar", but it is.

                                          Meanwhile, hope we agree that eating tomatoes, and the little fructose in them, is far healthier than eating sucrose.

                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                            A sucrose molecule consists of a glucose and a fructose molecule, loosely bound together. It is relatively easy to split it into the two constituent molecules. Your body does it as part of the digestive process. Heating a sucrose solution (sugar syrup) with a bit of acid also splits some of the sucrose, producing 'invert sugar syrup' (e.g. Lyles' Golden).

                                            There are other compound sugars. For example, two glucose form maltose (malt sugar). Even more complicated combinations produce starches. Soon or later, we are back to dealing with the two simple sugars.

                      2. I've been a diligent label reader for longer than I can remember, so whatever shock I've had from them is no longer fresh in my mind -- I already have a pretty clear picture of what to expect these days even before reading the label, and I try to limit the amount of processed food in the household, short of some of my favourite condiments -- oyster sauce (MSG and sugar!) and mayo (canola oil!), for example. So, I buy a lot of single-ingredient foodstuff these days.

                        One shock I have had was, when I realised how most "chocolates" have stuff like palm oil and "milk ingredients" in them. They're really just cheap fillers that make me go yuck. Now I'm pretty much limiting my chocolates to the imported and "artisanal" brands, where they use cream and cocoa butter instead.

                        One more thing. Back in the old days when I consumed a lot of junk food -- chips, chocolate bars, cookies and candies, I used to do this test. I calculate the total grams of fat in the whole package -- 18 g or 40 g or whatever -- and if the total does not shock me because I would likely be consuming the whole thing in one or two days, I would get the package. As you know the serving size is ridiculously deceptive!

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: tarteaucitron

                          Palm oil is not as bad for you as you might think. Much better than the hydrogenated vegetable oil that is more ubiquitous now.

                          1. re: evewitch

                            Whether it's healthy or not, it doesn't belong in chocolate.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Why not? What is the proper ingredient list for chocolate? Not being argumentative - I really don't know.

                            2. re: evewitch

                              You might want to read up on how it's produced however. They're clear-cutting Orangutan habitat to produce it in huge quantities. Very, very bad

                              http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/...

                              1. re: mellycooks

                                Palm oil has become an important ingredient for food manufacturers, fast food companies, etc. who are producing "trans-fat free" foods due to popular demand, perceived popular demand, legislation, etc. - hence ramped-up production.

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  That's because the palm oil they told us to stop eating - we were supposed to eat margarine instead because it was healthier while palm oil went straight to our arteries - is now deemed a healthier replacement for the hydrogenated oils that we aren't supposed to eat any more because of the evil trans fats.

                                  I won't even get started on eggs...

                                  1. re: embee

                                    see science works like this - you operate on the best theory you have. then more data comes in and you refine your theory. you then operate on that refined theory as new data comes in. this process never ends. that does not invalidate science, it is its strong point.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      I agree with you totally, but this isn't about science. Science also knew that eggs don't increase blood cholesterol, but other interests convinced us to believe otherwise for decades.

                                      1. re: embee

                                        i dont think that was the case initially, as i recall, but i couldn't swear to it.

                                        1. re: thew

                                          Adele Davis discussed the cholesterol issue in hen's eggs 40 years ago, and told us the the good cholesterol far outweighed the bad. It took the Medical profession 35 years to catch up, and even now they are way behind on salt research.

                                          1. re: jayt90

                                            Adele Davis was ahead of her time relative to the medical establishment on several fronts, including the importance of fiber in the diet. Some of her ideas are odd, and her recipes can be dreary, but she was spot-on in much of her nutritional analysis. She was also at the vanguard in terms of some issues considered health musts currently, like using whole grains and limiting sugar.

                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              Egg yolks contain lecithin, which lowers bad cholesterol in the blood.

                                              Today we know that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels. I don't think science knew this 50 years ago, but science knew enough about eggs to have prevented decades of scaremongering.

                                              Even today, most medical schools teach little about nutrition and much of what is taught is not congruent with current science.

                                              We haven't really come all that far from the time of Semmelweiss. Recent studies showing that doctors in major hospitals do not rigorously wash their hands before and after every patient contact seem almost beyond belief.

                                      2. re: embee

                                        Some of the talk about the evils of the saturated 'tropical' fats (palm, coconut) seems to have emanated from temperate competitors - the soy and corn oil producers.

                                        It is hard to say how much science was actually done regarding the relative healthiness of these oils. I think it was mostly based on extrapolation from ideas about saturated v unsaturated (poly and mono) fats.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I agree. I think basically "they" decided that saturated fats were "bad" and demonized them as a group. Now it turns out that saturated vegetable fats aren't that bad.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            I don't actually eat the stuff, but neither, apparently, is pure lard.

                              2. How many servings of paella were you making? The US RDA for sodium is 2,400mg max per day. In the UK the recommendation is lower, 1,600 mg/day. The entire bottle contained 1,120 mg. You didn't say how many servings of paella you were making but I will guess 4 which works out to 280 mg per serving. This works out to ~12% of the US RDA or 17.5% for the more conservative UK RDA. That seems like it would easily fit into a healthy diet.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: kmcarr

                                  The paella would have stuffed 6 people, but other things contain sodium, such as the chicken stock and sausage I put in it. My point was that unless I read the label, I NEVER would have assumed that the little bottle had so much salt--I would have salted as usual to season.

                                2. The problem with salt content in canned or preserved foods, using your clam juice as an example, is that the saltiness is often cooked out of the foods, so people who don't read labels OR don't cook from scratch with fresh food are in serious danger of constantly feeding their families dangerous levels of salt. You just have to read labels all of the time. No other choice.

                                  16 Replies
                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    What do you mean by 'cooked out of the food'?

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      I think she means the salty flavor, not the salt content itself. Sometimes you can eat something and not realize just how much salt is in it, because other flavors prevail. And then again, sometimes the salt flavor is overpowering....

                                      1. re: rednails

                                        Just what is a "dangerous level" of salt, though? From what I've read, the negative health effects of sodium have been vastly overstated. High levels of sodium can affect blood pressure in the subset of people suffering from hypertension who have sodium-sensitive hypertension. Does anyone have any information suggesting that there are "dangerous levels" of sodium for people who do not have specific medical conditions?

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Dangerous: More than you need on a daily basis, per the government's RDA and what your body actually needs for optimal bodily function. Enough that it gives you high blood pressure.

                                          I check the sodium content on all canned/packaged goods I buy, as well as checking the fat content, which is just as important to me. When I was 50 lbs overweight, and had high blood pressure, my dr warned me that I either had to lose weight or go on blood pressure meds. I lost the weight (and subsequently gained some of it back) and now try to eat as healthy as I can, which is difficult. I again have high blood pressure and am struggling to lose the weight I gained.

                                          I don't know if there are "dangerous" levels of sodium for people who don't have "specific medical conditions" but why overdo it if you don't have to?

                                          1. re: rednails

                                            "More than you need on a daily basis, per the government's RDA and what your body actually needs for optimal bodily function. Enough that it gives you high blood pressure."

                                            Well, these are two different things. The government's Recommended Daily Allowance is just that: a recommendation. It's not the same as saying more is "dangerous." Millions of people are exceeding the RDA for many different things on a daily basis without any ill health effects. As I said, sodium affects the blood pressure of only a small fraction of the overall population. Based on that, the fact that most people don't know if they have sodium sensitive hypertension, and the fact that there's no harm in limiting sodium, nutritionists, health educators, etc. recommend limiting sodium across the board. But that doesn't mean that it's dangerous for a person who doesn't suffer from a specific medical condition.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              I understand what you are saying, but for mse, I avoid excessive salt. I use the RDA as a guideline, and if I see a packaged product that has sodium above ~ 20%, then I'm not buying it. (I do use salt, sparingly, in cooking.) I'm also aware that family medical history is a factory in my decision, so I'd rather err on the lower side.

                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            A caveat: when you see articles about how non-dangerous some food is, be a clever sleuth and do some googling to find out who funded the research. I remember that just a few years ago the salt industry funded some.

                                            1. re: Querencia

                                              Likewise look for conflicts of interest when someone talks about problems with some ingredient, especially if they are pushing an alternative. Merchants have been known to spread rumors about their competitors products.

                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                        salt is NOT dangerous, unless you already have a condition like high blood pressure. salt will not cause high blood pressure, etc.

                                        1. re: thew

                                          I wish that knowedge was more widespread. I live in southern AZ, and my SIL worked as an occ health nurse at a hospital. She would get middle-aged and older employees coming in with symptoms of hyponatremia. These were usually folks who worked more blue-collar, labor- intensive jobs, which is often in warmer areas (kitchen, housekeeping, groundskeeping, laundry, etc.) and they were getting flat-out sick because they were limiting their salt intake despite having no medical reason to do so and perspiring out most of what little salt they had in them.
                                          Granted, there are lots of people who need a low sodium diet, but it isn't everybody.

                                          1. re: thew

                                            Interesting article about just this issue. It states that salt does cause high blood pressure, and it's causing it in children...

                                          2. re: Caroline1

                                            I am very lucky to have almost freakishly low blood pressure. My doctors have told me they could give me medication to raise it but they'd rather not. Instead, they've recommended that I have all the salt I want... and then add some! My grandfather had to take salt tablets for most of his life so I suppose it's genetic.

                                            Yippee for salt!

                                            1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                              We're birds of a feather Ima. I eat all the salt I want and BP often runs around 88/58. My doc told me the same thing . . .

                                              1. re: vday

                                                OOoo...we could form a club! Mine isn't quite as low as yours, but it is pretty close. I once had a nurse/aid person (the ones that take your BP and weight when you go to the doctor) ask how I walked in the building with a BP of 90/60. I'm a little sad that my BP has gone up a bit recently. It's hovering around 100/65 now.

                                              2. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                                I agree some things must have salt, but onto the original topic, I was shocked to see have much sodium is in V8, then I tried the lower sodium version, YUK. Back to original V8 or high fiber V8, salt be damned!

                                            2. Labels routinely disappoint, but it's been a long time since they shocked, at least for me. Salt content is often way up there on things that are canned or frozen. HFCS is prevalent as well. Plus there are any number of other things that are sugar without saying that word, like "evaporated cane juice". Nothing against cane juice, necessarily, just that nothing in that name necessarily suggests added sugar. The nutrition part of the label will tell you in grams how much total sugars are in the product, but some of that may be naturally occurring in the main ingredients (say, tomatoes, or fruit juice) so only the ingredient list will tell you if there is added sugar of some kind.

                                              Also watch out for bogus serving sizes. Apparently there are not stringent rules about this part, so making the size smaller (or, in some cases, larger) to get the desired nutrition label per serving is par for the course. One place I notice this often is boxed cereal. Servings of cereal may vary anywhere from 1/2 cup (for something really calorie dense so it doesn't look extra fattening) to 1 1/4 cup (for something less dense and also they want to say "look, x grams of fiber per serving!"). So it can be really hard to compare apples to apples. Watch out for serving size is half of something: 1/2 a muffin, 1/2 a pita, 1/2 a bagel, etc. Always cracks me up. Some people maybe do eat that as a serving, but most people would be best served if the nutrition info was for a whole item.

                                              I try to read any product I haven't bought before just to see. I don't always avoid everything; sometimes I know there's junk in there and buy it anyway. I don't think I've had a gotcha at home recently, but I remember a few years ago I'm pretty sure I got a container of Emerald nuts home before I noticed the MSG on the label. Come on, that's cheating!

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: CrazyOne

                                                The serving size information is useful when comparing similar products. For example, if you want to compare Spam with other brands of luncheon meat, check that they all use '2 oz' as the serving size. It is much less useful if you are trying to decide between that slice of canned meat, and a packaged cream filled sponge cake.

                                                1. re: CrazyOne

                                                  My "favorite" serving size trick is when the ingredient label tells you there are X servings per package and the cooking instructions say Y, where X>Y.

                                                  For example, I usually make penne/shells for pasta dishes, so when I got a box of angel hair I had no idea how much to cook for two people. The label said there were eight servings per box and the instructions said a box served four. I cooked half the box and had WAY too much pasta. I'll never make that mistake again.

                                                  1. re: mordacity

                                                    With dry pasta, I depend on experience and weight. A third of a pound (about 5 oz) is about right for 2 of us, with enough left over for lunch for one. Weight is a more consistent measure for different sizes and shapes of pasta than volume.

                                                  2. re: CrazyOne

                                                    Serving sizes for products are usually (although not always) standard within any one type of product. The trick is that the serving size for the purposes of nutritional information is standardized by weight. So to use your example, a "serving" of cereal is usually one ounce (28 or 30 grams). But depending on what type of cereal that is, it might, as you noted, be half a cup or two or three times that by volume. Doing nutritional analysis by volume is impractical, to say the least, since volume can vary even within a specific product (the broken flakes at the bottom of the cornflake box will have more flakes per volume than the whole ones at the top).

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      Hm, very true, I can see that now that you mention it. The main reason that comes up though is that we tend to eat cereal by volume. Don't we? I dunno, seems like everyone I've seen typically has a certain size bowl with little regard to the weight. There may be a few exceptions for the super dense stuff like granola, but the cereals I'm thinking of would typically be poured in the same amounts despite the widely varying volume "servings".

                                                      It's just something to look out for in the labeling. I can see the impracticalities in this case, but what about the 2.5 servings in a 20oz bottle of Coke? A 12 oz can is made just one serving. Clearly there's no impracticality here; that is just using numbers that look nicer on the 20oz bottle.

                                                      1. re: CrazyOne

                                                        You remind me of many years back when my cousin and I were on a health kick circa the early '70s, and she really took a liking to wheat germ which was one of the wonderfoods at the time. She ate a bowl of it every day for breakfast. At some point she started gaining weight and began researching calorie counts of what she was eatng. Lo and behold, a serving size was something like two teaspoons, and she'd been eating probably close to a cup. But they didn't put serving size or calorie count on the labels back in those days, never mind the fat content..

                                                  3. After I started really looking at labels, I started shopping mostly on the outer edges of the store; i.e., produce, meat, dairy with limited forays to the aisles.

                                                    Canned tomatoes were a shocker and I always check the label on these. Even on the non-herbed versions, they sometimes add unnecessary ingredients.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                                      Ima, look into Pomi tomatoes if you can find them...they are sold in a carton vs. can and they only contain tomatoes and they are really delicious! I switched to no-sodium tomatoes a few years ago and these are the best tasting,hands down, in my opinion.
                                                      I can find them in our regular supermarkets, Publix, on the same shelves as the canned tomatoes.

                                                    2. My biggest pet peeve is 'spice' mixes where the #1 ingredient is Salt. SHAME on you, Emeril! No Bam for me!
                                                      I'm a big fan of buying whole spices in small quantities so they don't get old. If the spice is too 'exotic' for your local super then check out Penzeys.

                                                      1. If you can get to a Trader Joe's take a look at their Organic Marinara Sauce which is very tomatoey and good and has only 25 mg of sodium per serving, unheard-of low. Their low-sodium chicken stock is useful for cooking when you don't have the real thing---you can use it for making no-fault gravy. Also they have a low-sodium salsa that is great. They actually have a couple of prepared frozen things that aren't very high in sodium, for example an Orange Chicken and Penne Ariabiata. To answer your question more directly, I put stuff aside quite often, as I cook for a heart-condition-type husband who literally ends up in the ER at 4 AM if he gets too much sodium. In general, avoid prepared foods and be a do-it-yourselfer, or else raid the freezer for what you've stashed there.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                          Thank you for these TJ's suggestions!

                                                        2. I stopped buying Lean Cuisine products quite a long time ago. Part of the reason is taste/texture issues, and sodium levels certainly; I've pretty much given up buying ANY prepared frozen food in favor of my own cooking so I can control for all those factors. But a comparison of two similar products, one from the Stouffer's line and the other from the Stouffer's Lean Cuisine line shows the deception (and the High Sodium Content across the board):

                                                          Stouffer's Grilled Chicken Teriyaki: White Meat Chicken in a Tangy Teriyaki Sauce with White Rice and Vegetables
                                                          Serving Size: 9.38 oz.
                                                          Servings Per Container: 1
                                                          Calories: 300 / Calories from Fat: 30

                                                          Total Fat: 3.5g (5%)
                                                          Cholesterol: 40mg
                                                          Sodium: 880mg
                                                          Total Carbohydrates: 45g
                                                          Protein: 21g

                                                          Lean Cuisine (Stouffer's) Orange Peel Chicken: Sesame breaded chicken tenderloins in a zesty orange sauce with a rice medley and broccoli florets.
                                                          Serving Size: 12 oz.
                                                          Servings Per Container: 1
                                                          Calories: 390 / Calories from Fat: 80

                                                          Total Fat: 9g (15%)
                                                          Cholesterol: 25mg
                                                          Sodium: 850 mg
                                                          Total Carbohydrates: 63g
                                                          Protein: 15g

                                                          The "Lean" Cuisine product has More calories, more from fat, only slightly less sodium, much more carbs and considerably less protein. Bizarre. If you're going to eat one (and I say you shouldn't have either) pick the regular over the "lean".

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: mcsheridan

                                                            I just "won" a coupon for a free bottle of Wishbone salad dressing at my supermarket, so I figured get a bottle of Bleu Cheese since I have some chicken wings in the freezer. Since I never buy pre-made dressings, I stood there for a while pondering which to get, and figured lite had to be better/healthier than regular. But no, the first ingredient was water (same deal as with lite beer, you're paying the bulk of the purchase price for water!) and next HFCS. Didn't see any actual cheese, unless it was the last ingredient maybe. At least the regular stuff had the cheese listed first or second. Didn't see HFCS in the regular either, although again maybe at the bottom (that small print is so annoying for me to read nowadays). I don't buy that much prepared food lately, and yes, it was an eye-opener: don't assume diet, light or healthy is good for you, it could have less nutrients and more additives than normal.

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              Considering that the classic dressing recipe calls for 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, if they want to reduce the fat, they have to replace the oil with something. What else can they use except water, plus some texture conditioners? Cheese is also high in fat - so a low fat dressing has to find a substitute for that as well.

                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                I am so glad I make my dressings from scratch. Of course, if it's free, I'll take it though!

                                                          2. We used to buy Shere Khan curry sauces from World Market on a regular basis. And then they changed the recipe unannounced- looked different; tasted different, and when we matched up labels with a jar of the old recipe, we discovered that the amount of fat/sat fat and sodium in the new Korma sauce was more than twice what was in the old version.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. My son and I have gotten hung up on a couple of different brands of noodles that you reconstitute- ramen-style. Egad, they're full of all three- tons of salt, fat, and HFCS, depending on the brand. So I add some black fungus and wakame, which is loaded with salt too, but at least it's green. And really, really yummy.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: EWSflash

                                                                You might want to look for fresh ramen noodles which tend not to be loaded up on oil. Whenever I make noodle soup, I always add zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, napa cabbage, sometimes kimchi, etc., cook it all till it's the right texture to eat, and then add the noodles. This turns it into a pretty healthy option. Another way to improve it is to make your own broth using some Korean red pepper powder, soya sauce, ginger, garlic, sriracha, etc.

                                                                1. re: Full tummy

                                                                  I just started making Mark Bittman' s take on homemade ramen-style noodle soup, basically the ingredients you're saying, and wow, my husband goes crazy for it. Takes less than 5 minutes to throw together.

                                                                  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/25/din...

                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                    Thanks for the link. I came up with mine when I had a Korean student staying with me who wanted to eat noodle soup regularly. After reading the package ingredients, I had to do something.... Turned out the student liked it better with all the veggies!

                                                                    I must say mine definitely looks more veggified than Bittman's version, but I think the point is that you can make what you want of such a soup.

                                                              2. Welcome to the world of processed food. I don't buy this crap and haven't in a long time.

                                                                1. Just yesterday I had a "YIKES" moment!

                                                                  I had never in my life eaten Spam; In fact I had always been frightened of the stuff.

                                                                  But a few months ago, I was at a Szechuan restaurant having Chinese Hot pot, and one of the meats they served was Spam.
                                                                  I have to say I really enjoyed it!!
                                                                  So ever since then, and after reading about Spams virtues here on CH - I finally had the nerve to actually buy a can. I reluctantly have approached the can before, but always chickened out. Yesterday I got as far as having the can in my hand....but then I read the label.....17 grams of fat per serving...and something like 5 servings in a can!!!!!
                                                                  YIKES
                                                                  I put the can back and walked away. Holy smokes!

                                                                  One day I will definitely suck it up and see what I can do with it...

                                                                  1. My most recent funny label experience was a cooking oil spray that advertized itself as "no fat", but it obviously contained mostly one ingredient: oil. Because of the way nutrition labels are calculated on a "per serving" basis, they made the serving size small enough so that there was less than a half-gram of fat in it, which could then be rounded down to zero. Hilarious!!!

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                                                      This is also done with transfats. Less than 0.5 grams per serving and it can be rounded down to zero. One need only look at the ingredients to see that it is lurking in there.

                                                                      1. re: Jen76

                                                                        I found this article posted on another thread to be quite informative, as transfats occur naturally in animal-based products; it seems that it is also possible that these transfats aren't as unhealthy as the hydrogenated oil transfats. Nevertheless, companies are going to some lengths to change recipes so that they can say zero transfats (less than half a gram per serving, as you mention). I always use the ingredient list plus the nutrition chart, in tandem, to try to figure out what's going on... It is rather confusing.

                                                                        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/07/din...

                                                                    2. I think the solution is to cook from scratch as often as possible. This can be dangerous as well. A cook cooking from scratch can certainly add much more salt than intended, as well as fat. The difference is there are no mg readouts for the cooks hand.

                                                                      I used to work for a restaurant which specialized in paella and canned clam broth was never part of the recipe. I think that part of your recipe could have been scrapped.

                                                                      This is not to say, I am a purist and do everything from scratch because I don't. I do look for no salt and sugar products and the smarter major brands seem to be coming slowly around.

                                                                      So what was so wrong about buying fresh clams and cooking them in a bit of water and using that as clam broth? In my view it is cheaper better and healthier.

                                                                      You did mention a lot of things in our current cookery which raises concerns and I thank you for that. Personally, I am more worried more about GMO products in the food supply because as of this date the consumer has no right to know about them. That is really scary.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. Not a sodium, fat, or HFCS issue but I recently bought the Oikos 0% Greek Yogurt with honey (distributed, now, by Stoneyfield). I assumed that it was the regular 0% Greek yogurt with honey. That worked for me because I usually just add honey or agave nectar to my yogurt and this was a nice option when I was traveling. I was wrong. Turns out that it has honey, plus cane suga and pectin plus several other ingredients. I guess if I want yogurt with honey when traveling, I'm going to have to purchase both.

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                                                          Yup...I just looked at just about every yogurt the other night at the supermarket. Even the organic and "boutique" brands had additions to sweeten them. Can sugar being the main one. Overall, however, the better brands had less sugar (and carbs) content.
                                                                          Best bets are the farmers market IMO.

                                                                          eta: I DID find a brand without added sweeteners (natural or otherwise) which is Voskos. AMAZING greek yogurt. I have the low-fat and it's very high in protein, lower in carbs and no added sugar.

                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                            I''m not sure what you're talking about when you say "every yogurt" but very few plain yogurts have sweeteners (thickeners is a whole other story). Flavored yogurts have flavorings, and yes, most yogurt flavorings contain some form of sweetness.

                                                                            Yogurt itself has natural sugars (lactose), although greek-style strained yogurts have less, because the lactose is mostly dissolved in the whey and drains out. In other words, I'm not sure what your point is.

                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                              I wrote "about every", not "every".
                                                                              Many plain and Greek yogurt labels that I read had added sugar, such as cane sugar.
                                                                              What I reported was MY OBSERVATION in an average supermarket. I am not going to assume (anymore) that plain and Greek style yogurt is significantly lower in sugar content until I read the label. Some may be, some may not.
                                                                              I realize lactose imparts sugar content.
                                                                              Hope that helps!

                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                I'm still curious what plain yogurts have sugar added. I don't remember ever seeing any. Dannon, which is probably the most widely distributed yogurt in the US doesn't add any sugar to its plain yogurt.

                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                  I know for sure that Fage Greek yougurt doesn't have anything in it except milk and the bacteria (or whatever they're called), at least according to their label. What grosses me out is all the popular brands basically have pudding (cornstarch) and Jello (gelatin) in it, so is it a healthy snack or a dessert?

                                                                        2. I had another WOW! moment when making a salad dressing. I went to use rice wine vinegar, but realized that the type in my cupboard was "spiced". The sodium content was around 240 mg per serving-a TBSP.
                                                                          Regular vinegar has 0 mg sodium.
                                                                          Same thing has been applying to tomato products I have been looking at. A can of tomato sauce will have more sodium than you'd think. But add basil, or Italian herbs and spices, and watch the sodium skyrocket!

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                            A lot of seasoned rice vinegars have HFCS as well. Some brands do, some don't, so it pays to check all the labels.

                                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                                              I buy both plain rice vinegar and seasoned rice vinegar. When using the seasoned one, I don't add salt or sugar to dressing until I've tasted it. Nothing surprising or mysterious about that.

                                                                              How much sodium and sugar is there, per serving in this standard Japanese 3-Flavors Vinegar?
                                                                              1 1/2 T sugar (or mirin)
                                                                              1/2 c rice vinegar
                                                                              2T soy sauce (1000mg sodium/tsp)
                                                                              2/3 c dashi
                                                                              (I calculate 6000mg sodium per 1 1/2 c dressing, or 250mg/T)

                                                                              or consider the dressing for sushi rice (no salt is used in cooking the rice) (for 3 1/2c rice, 4 c water)
                                                                              5T vinegar
                                                                              5T sugar
                                                                              4 tsp salt

                                                                              Nothing wrong with using salty and sweet seasonings, provided you watch how much additional salt you use.

                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                I should clarify that I meant that some seasoned rice vinegars are sweetened with HFCS and some with sugar, depending on the brand. For those of us who avoid HFCS on principle, that's good to know.

                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                  Also check the label of 'mirin'. While the original is made from rice wine, a much less expensive version (aji mirin) is largely corn syrup (I don't recall whether HFCS or plain).

                                                                                  It's worth keeping in mind that a straight sucrose (sugar) syrup readily crystallizes. There has to be some free glucose to prevent that. That glucose can come from splitting sucrose (invert sugar), from a natural mix of glucose and fructose (honey), or a manufactured source like corn syrup (made from corn starch). So any sweet liquid will have free glucose, and quite possibly fructose.

                                                                                  In your mouth, saliva starts the process of converting starches into simple sugars.

                                                                            2. My co-workers got KFC one day and had leftover honey. I thought that a little honey in my hot tea might be nice. Just before I added it I happened to read the label. If I remember correctly the first ingredient was HFCS and I am pretty sure it had caramel coloring. Really? Shouldn't the ingredients in honey be, well, honey?

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: amy_rc

                                                                                Consider the source. I have nothing against KFC as an occasional descent into debauchery, but they have to constantly rethink everything to keep the prices as low as they are.

                                                                                I used to buy Chinese honey that came in these nifty glasses that I kept as glasses. Last time I saw it I noticed it was labeled "Chnese honey syrup" or something like that. It had more than honey in it, for sure. I was heartbroken.

                                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                  This is akin to most ubiquitous brands of "maple" syrup not actually containing any maple. It's HFCS and flavorings. Good thing I caught onto this, thanks to a post on CH, and began purchasing actual maple syrup.

                                                                              2. Something quirky that I do is collect food labels. When I can, I like to find strange off-brands of common foods, mainly for the label and not always for the content. (The exception being a can of sea urchin that turned out to be quite repulsive! but the label was torn to shreds removing it.)

                                                                                Anyhow, I was surprised, but not entirely shocked to find a high sodium content in a can of “Ponce Cash & Carry Beef Ravioli in Tomato and Meat Sauce” manufactured in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Mind you, I was midway through consumption when I read the label. Gasp! This 15oz. can sported 1120mg of sodium per serving (high enough) but there are _two_ servings in the can!

                                                                                Ay! Dios mio! Each serving had 47% of the recommended sodium intake for one day, that’s 94% dietary fulfillment, in one little can! I’m a salt lover, but this was too much!

                                                                                BTW – the ravioli wasn’t too bad otherwise. Decent flavor, about what you’d expect from canned junk food.