Whether you’re dining out or whipping up an easy dinner at home, you like to think that the foods you eat are as advertised, right? Choosing fresh, whole foods is the easiest way to know you’re getting what you pay for, but sometimes the convenience of a restaurant (or Seamless) wins out.
But even though you probably know that Cheez Whiz is a far cry from organic aged cheddar and bottled fruit juices don’t grow on trees, we had no idea that these foods are masquerading as something they’re not.
1. Red Velvet
We all have a friend who obsesses over red velvet cake (and of course, its signature cream cheese frosting. Mmm frosting.). But if they knew that the ruby-colored dessert was really just artificially colored chocolate cake, think they’d have? Sadly the trademark red hue doesn’t signify any special flavor: Most red velvet recipes call for around one or two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder as well as about one teaspoon of vanilla extract to create that distinct (and delicious) light, chocolate-y taste.
The Need-to-Know: A slice of red velvet cake or a cupcake isn’t going to hurt you, but it’s best to consider it an occasional indulgence, and not just because it’s packed with sugar. “I try to minimize my exposure to artificial colorings, even though the negative impact of artificial food colorings is still controversial,” says Greatist expert, Ph.D., founder of Naked Nutrition.
If you’ve ever dipped a chopstick into that creamy green substance on your sushi plate (and got a runny nose and burning throat as reward), we’ve got another surprise for you: That spicy stuff is parading as something it’s not.Traditional Japanese wasabi is freshly grated (it loses its heat within a few minutes of being served) and can cost up to $100 per pound. (And you thought addingat Chipotle was pricy.) To save a major chunk of change, your local takeout spot likely serves a substitute that’s really a combination of mustard, horseradish, and green food coloring for the characteristic hue ( of American sushi restaurants do).The horseradish mixture is still super hot but genuine wasabi has more of a , and less of a searing, bitter taste.
The Need-to-Know: On the bright side, horseradish, like real wasabi, may offer some antibacterial health benefits. But with the horseradish mixture, you’re ingesting some artificial flavors and colors as well. However since you’re eating such a small amount (unless your mouth has gone numb!) it probably doesn’t make much of a difference. Bottom line: There doesn’t seem to be any real harm in the fake stuff, Roussell says.
3. Crab Meat
Sorry to bust your bubble again, sushi lovers (especially if your go-to is a California roll): Those crab pieces aren’t, in fact, meat from a creature that lives on the bottom of the sea. So what are you eating? Imitation crab, which is technically called kamaboko, a processed seafood made of surimi (the pulverized paste of white fish flesh). The paste is frozen, shaved into flakes, and ground in a vat with starch, egg whites, and crab-like flavorings. Oh yeah, and then it’s colored with orange food dye to make it appear more “crabby.” How’s that for appetizing?
The Need-to-Know: “Imitation crab meat is like the hot dog of seafood,” Roussell says. “Once and a while it isn’t going to kill you, but you should do better for your body.” Sushi can still be a healthy choice, but stick with salmon or yellowfin tuna to ensure you’re eating what you think you ordered. Also, Roussell recommends steering clear of tilefish, shark, and swordfish due to their high mercury content.
4. White Chocolate