5 Foods That Got Healthier While You Weren’t Looking

These days it seems the internet is full of news about the horrifying ingredients in our food, or the ghastly processes through which they’re produced. Sometimes I just feel like giving up, as it seems that everything I see, touch or eat is killing me in one way or another.

If you’ve gotten discouraged, remember the silver lining: consumer awareness (and outcry) is the one thing strong enough to force the Big Food manufacturers to change their ways. As 2013 draws to a close, there are at least five big examples of this happening: food companies that were tired of the negative press, and decided to replace gross or toxic ingredients with something better. The funny part is, most companies did so very quietly.

“The reason companies don’t publicize it is that they don’t want to bring attention to these ingredients. They want to slowly start to remove them until they’re all gone,” Vani Hari, who runs the site FoodBabe.com and has pressured companies to remove artificial dyes and other ingredients, told the AP.

Well, it’s never easy to admit you’ve been wrong. And touting the total removal of the product after the fact is a much better PR opportunity.

Here are five foods that got healthier while you weren’t looking:

1. Gatorade


In late 2012, a vegetarian teenager discovered that Gatorade contained brominated vegetable oil, a synthetic chemical that is created when vegetable oil is bonded to the element bromine. BVO is used to keep citrus flavorings evenly dispersed throughout certain beverages, but when consumed in high amounts over a long period of time, BVO can build up in the body and cause toxic effects, including neurological damage. The teenager, Sarah Kavanagh, started a petition asking Gatorade maker PepsiCo to remove the ingredient.

In January 2013, the company announced that it would comply, although about 10 percent of drinks sold in the United States contain brominated vegetable oil, including Mountain Dew, also made by PepsiCo; Powerade, Fanta Orange and Fresca from Coca-Cola; and Squirt and Sunkist Peach Soda, made by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

2. Starbucks Frappucino

starbucks strawberry drink

In March 2013, Starbucks customers across the United States were horrified to learn that the pink color of their Strawberry and Creme Frappuccino came from crushed parasitic insects. “NPR points out that cochineal can cause asthma and allergies — sometimes severe — in some people;” for this reason, the FDA has required that companies note these reactions on the labels of foods and cosmetics containing cochineal and carmine (which is another name for food coloring made from scale insects).

According to Inhabitatstudies have also linked cochineal to “anaphylactic shock in factory workers exposed to the substance,” wrote Care2′s Kristina Chew. Shortly thereafter, Starbucks said it would stop using a red dye made of crushed bugs based on comments it received “through a variety of means,” including an online petition, and switch to a tomato-based extract, reports the AP.

3. Kraft Mac & Cheese

kraft mac and cheese

In early 2013, previously mentioned food blogger Vani Hari teamed up with blogger Lisa Leake to pressure Kraft Foods. They wanted the grocery giant to remove toxic dyes, including Yellow #5 and #6, from its products, especially those targeted to kids. As Organic Authority reports, “Hyperactivity in children has been linked to artificial food colors, including Yellows #5 and #6″ and the dyes have already been banned in the UK, where Kraft still happily sells dye-free versions.

At first, Kraft rejected the consumer request, but they’ve since reconsidered. In November, the company announced that it would replace the petroleum-based dyes with natural spices including paprika, annatto and turmeric in three of its mac and cheese products.

4. Chick-fil-A Dressings and Sauces

chick fil A sauce

While there are still plenty of reasons to avoid Chick-fil-A, some menu items have become less toxic. The AP reports that the chain “has been removing artificial dyes and high-fructose corn syrup from its dressings and sauces. The Atlanta-based chain is also testing a ‘clean ingredient bun’ but has not alerted customers.”

5. Kroger Breakfast Cereals (and more)

kroger cereal

The fight over high fructose corn syrup has been waged for years. Despite industry assertions that it’s no different than sugar, HFCS has been linked repeatedly to negative health effects, not the least of which are obesity and autism. But, as consumers have steadily become more savvy, rejecting products that contain HFCS in favor of those that don’t, industry has relented. “Kroger Co. decided to remove it from store-brand cereals following surveys with consumers in 2011. The supermarket chain isn’t alone. Over the past decade, the use of high-fructose corn syrup in packaged foods and drinks has fallen 18 per cent to 6.1 million tons last year, according to market researcher Euromonitor International.”

Images: Thinkstock, betseyweberChoubistarcibomahto, maureendiddle, meginsanity

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapaabout a year ago

Thank you

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla1 years ago

Are you serious? They are not healthy!!!

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

thanks, but I don't eat any of these

Shalvah Landy
Past Member 1 years ago

5 Foods ????????????
Are you for real- what of the above is REAL FOOD?????

Margarita G.
Margarita G.1 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

PJ Chartrand
PJ C.1 years ago

Barbara G. it's not really about the 15 calories in a teaspoon of sugar when it comes to HFCS but the multiple chemical baths that the corn goes through to produce a product your body barely, if at all, recognizes as food.

Even with 'white sugar' you have to be sure it's cane sugar and not GMO beet sugar though more often than not it's the latter though you won't see it on the label in most products....le sigh.

When I first learned of HFCS I researched it for days and learned that Europeans who didn't change their diet while spending a few months in the USA put on a lot of weight just by eating new to them products with HFCS in them and that weight gain was reversed when they returned to their home country with no HFCS. Never one to overlook a potential opportunity like that after years of dieting I dropped all food with HFCS and beet sugar from my diet and also lost that 20 wouldn't go away pounds.

PJ Chartrand
PJ C.1 years ago

I can't begin to express how really p,o,'d I am that better and safer ingredients are so easily available and yet it takes so much public pressure to finally get these companies to do what they should have done in the first place. What a bunch of disgusting, exploitative, greedy, evil douches.

Mind you, look at the difference in the out and out garbage that seems to be required in our hygiene and cosmetics here in North American when the same bastard companies can make much safer products for the European markets where they are not allowed to pimp quite as much poison.

Patricia H.
Patricia H.1 years ago

thanks for sharing

Edo R.
Edo R.1 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Jocelyn Chouinard

you've got to be kidding. These things may be less toxic than earlier versions, but calling them "healthier" is more than a overstatement, Something must be healthy before it can become "healthier". None of these things can technically be called food.