Foods That Aren’t What You Think They Are

Velveeta
The product melts smoothly to create a perfect cheesy base for queso or as a topping for nachos. But did you know that Velveeta isn’t actually cheese? It’s a cheese product. According to the FDA’s rules, Velveeta doesn’t qualify as dairy. Perhaps you would be better off if you reach for a block of real cheddar when making your queso and rest easy knowing that what you’re eating is actually food.

Bacon bits
These lovely bits of meat that you sprinkle atop your salad to make eating greens palatable aren’t actually made of meat. Bacon bits are actually “artificially flavored textured soy flour to imitate bacon pieces,” according to McCormick, which makes a version of the popular salad topper. None of the ingredients in the list are meat. So if you’re a vegetarian that’s achin’ for some bacon, sprinkle away. If you want something made out of real food, you might want to go for a product labeled “real bacon bits.”

Cool Whip
Here’s another dairy-like substance that isn’t actually a dairy product. Skim milk comes in fourth on the popular whipped topping’s list of ingredients, behind hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup. Light cream only makes an appearance in the “less than 2 percent” section of the ingredients list. For real whipped cream, reach for Reddi-Whip instead, as real cream is the first ingredient on its label.

Sunny Delight
Sunny D and anything else labeled “juice drink” is not juice but high fructose corn syrup. The small amount of juice that’s in Sunny Delight comes under the “less than 2 percent” section and is a combination of orange, tangerine, apple, lime, grapefruit, and pear juice. Ninety-eight percent of the drink is just corn syrup and water. The drink’s vitamin C content is added artificially through ascorbic acid, and it’s filled with preservatives and artificial coloring. If you want to drink real fruit juice, choose an option labeled “100 percent juice.”

Jell-O
Jell-O is surprisingly not vegan. It’s not even vegetarian. Jell-O is made of gelatin, which is itself made of the collagen found in animal protein. Sources of that animal protein include various combinations of bones, hooves, and skin from pigs, cows, and fish. People who practice religions that inhibit the consumption of certain types of meat have to skip it entirely, as Jell-O packaging doesn’t specify what type of animal was used in the production of the gelatin. Some disturbing news for Jell-O-lovers is that there have been recent experiments with making gelatin from human DNA fragments.

Kraft 100 Percent Grated Parmesan Cheese
More cheese that’s not actually cheese, and again from our friend Kraft. This stuff is so far from real Parmesan cheese that it can’t legally be labeled as such in Europe. Kraft lists the product’s only ingredient as being “Parmesan cheese” but then goes on to say that “Parmesan cheese” is made of milk, salt, and a whole bunch of additives. Cellulose, better known as wood fiber, is added to keep the product’s powdery consistency, along with potassium sorbate and cheese cultures. Kraft’s version of parmesan is 100 percent grated but definitely not 100 percent cheese. For real parmesan cheese, buy fresh blocks or wedges of parmesan and grate it onto your favorite dish yourself.

Aunt Jemima “maple syrup”
Aunt Jemima’s maple syrup is actually, for the most part, corn syrup. The first three ingredients are corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and water. Nothing maple is even in the stuff, unless that’s covered by “natural and artificial flavors.” Calling the sugary condiment what it is, Aunt Jemima’s corn syrup, doesn’t sound quite as appetizing first thing in the morning. Aunt Jemima can’t even call it “maple” syrup, and instead just refers to it as “syrup,” hoping that consumers think maple rather than corn.

Pringles
These weirdly homogenous chips in a can are far from pieces of fried potato. While they do technically count as potato chips in the U.S., the company successfully convinced the U.K. government that Pringles aren’t potato chips so that the product wouldn’t be taxed as a luxury item. Pringles are made from a mix of corn, rice, wheat, and potato flakes that are mashed together into a slurry and then put into a machine to give them their unique shape. Pringles are actually less than 50 percent potato.

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