I admit, I do a lot of my grocery shopping at health food stores. While people complain of high prices and debate whether or not organic food is really better for you, the fact is that places like Whole Foods have a bigger selection of the brands I love.
I do buy some items at my local mega-supermarkets, though, because I would rather not pay $5 for the same exact product I can get elsewhere for $1. 50
On one recent trip to a grocery chain near my office, I had finished shopping and haphazardly glanced into a floor-freezer on my way to check out. It was full of meatballs, hamburger patties, etc., that were prepared and packaged by the store butcher.
My eyes naturally scan the ingredient list of any product I pick up, and as I examined a package of uncooked meatballs, I noticed something that confused me (at first) and then completely shocked me. Not only were there added ingredients (which I didn’t expect), but the carb column also contained a numerical value.
Beef doesn’t contain carbohydrates, so why does this beef have 8 grams of carbohydrates per 4-ounce serving?
As you can see in the picture, they’ve added a mixture of flour, wheat, and salt (known as “cracker meal”) as a filler!
Why would a supermarket add cracker meal to its meatballs? Because cracker meal is cheaper than beef, and adding cracker meal to beef means they don’t have to use as much beef. Brilliant! But also deceiving, because I’m 99.9% sure that the majority of people who buy these pre-packaged beef products have no idea that they contain anything besides beef!
What does this have to do with health and/or weight loss?
One of the first recommendations I make when patients ask for guidance in losing weight is to start reducing refined carbohydrates and sugar. A half-pound portion of this beef (roughly the size of an average hamburger) contains 16 grams of hidden carbohydrates that will most likely go unnoticed. Have you ever tried to track carbohydrates? They add up pretty fast, and carbs from unsuspecting sources like sauces, additives, and fillers can indeed sabotage your goals.
I also wonder how many people with celiac disease or a gluten/wheat sensitivity are getting sick from things like this and have no idea why. Who would even think to read the ingredient list on meatballs!
Just as troubling are the other additives like dextrose (sugar) and added salt amounting to 470 grams of sodium per serving! Beef does contain sodium, but naturally about 60 grams per 3 ounces, so unknowingly consuming almost 8 times that can certainly have terrible health ramifications.
Conclusion: As consumers become more aware of harmful ingredients in food, food companies will find new and creative ways to hide them. It’s more important than ever to read labels….on everything.