Cooking using all-natural foods is a wonderful way to know what you’re eating, but it’s also a great way to spend a lot of money. Not everyone has the finances and time to always do a farm-to-table menu when they’re home, so oftentimes we grab something a little easier.
But it might be time to rethink our eating options as we explore several foods that are frauds.
Red Velvet Cake
Everyone loves red velvet cake. What is there not to love? There's cake, there's cream cheese, usually there are some sprinkles on top, and it’s delicious. The thing is, we also love red velvet cake because the taste is something familiar, even though the color says otherwise.
Red velvet cake is really just chocolate cake with some food coloring (some people use beet juice for a natural coloring effect). During the Great Depression, a Texas company began selling food coloring and flavoring extracts to cut down on the costs of cooking. One recipe that Adams Extracts brought to life was the red velvet cake.
His story is mentioned in this article for The New York Times: “After Congress passed the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938, shoring up regulations for food coloring, Mr. Adams figured he could sell a lot more extracts and dyes, and a red cake would be just the way to do it.”
While red velvet can be seen anywhere from pancakes to candles, it is still a favorite, even if it really is just dyed chocolate cake. Want to make your own? You can find a red velvet cake recipe here.
If you go out for some sushi, sure enough you’re going to mix in that fiery hot green wasabi with some soy sauce. The catch is, real wasabi is incredibly expensive and the stuff we usually mix together at our local neighborhood joint, is a false mixture.
The Daily Meal states, “The wasabi you’ve most likely had differs quite a bit from the real thing. Wasabi roots are difficult to grow, and a pound can cost up to $100, so a substitute is often made by combining mustard, horseradish, and food coloring to give it its iconic light green hue.”
The biggest difference is just like any cost-cutting method; the original stuff has more of a pleasurable kick at the end, while the cheaper imitation gives you that runny-nose burn. But, we’ll happily take a little bit of short-term pain over the long-term loss of money we’d spend otherwise.
If you're looking for the real thing, here are a few ways to make your own wasabi.
Hold on tight for this one, because if you don’t already know about this, then what you’re about to read will essentially do what Supersize Me did for the McDonald’s chicken nugget.
In Japanese, crab stick is called “surimi,” which actually means “ground meat,” and is essentially the ocean’s version of the hot dog.
HuffPost explains, “Surimi is made of different kinds of fish, which are ground together [and pulverized] into a paste. According to SF Gate, manufacturers add starch, artificial flavors, sodium and sometimes MSG.” Then, of course, it is dyed with orange food coloring to give it that authentic, crab-like look.
While it’s not as bad for you as eating an actual hot dog, it is not the best to ingest imitation foods so try to go for the salmon, tuna, or yellowtail when eating sushi. We are not listing a recipe for making your own fake crab meat because that is quite disgusting.
White chocolate is hit or miss with most people (personally it’s a hard miss unless you’re eating the white chocolate Crunch bars or Oreo’s cookie and cream flavor). The funny thing about white chocolate is the fact that it’s barely even chocolate.
As described in this Greatist article, “Real chocolate contains three must-have components: chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa solids (often in addition to other ingredients). But the white kind lacks chocolate liquor and cocoa solids—which means it’s also missing flavanols, the antioxidants that give the authentic stuff nutritional benefits."
So, not only does white chocolate lack much of what makes chocolate, chocolate, it also is void of the few healthy components that come with chocolate too. In 2004, the FDA got involved and mandated a law that required white chocolate to have a minimum of at least 20 percent cocoa butter and no more than 55 percent sugar or other sweeteners.
That way companies couldn’t basically put sugar on a stick and color it white and call it white chocolate. In case you're curious, here's a recipe for white chocolate (not sure why you’d want to though!)
You should probably be a little cautious about anything labeled “juice” or “fruit drink." It is worth checking the ingredients list since more often than not, you’ll find some oddities in there along with an insanely high dose of sugar.
We know that pomegranates are incredibly healthy and do amazing things for your heart and cholesterol levels, but the problem with buying the “juice” version is you have to be sure what you’re getting. And it’s not just off-brand companies trying to claim the benefits of pomegranate; magnate corporation Coca-Cola was sued by Pom Wonderful because they were putting out a drink and calling it “Blueberry-Pomegranate Juice."
Yet, as discussed in this article from The New York Times, “The blend, sold under Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid brand, is made almost entirely from apple and grape juice. [The juice] is made up of 99.4 percent apple and grape juices, 0.3 percent pomegranate juice, 0.2 percent blueberry juice and 0.1 percent raspberry juice.”
The lesson here is to check your labels, or, to be extra safe, make your own juice. Interested? Learn how to de-seed and juice a pomegranate here.
Unless you’re putting the tap into a tree and getting the maple syrup yourself, it’s tough to say exactly what you’re eating when you slather on the Aunt Jemima syrup to your waffles. Most likely, unless it's labeled as 100 percent pure, authentic maple syrup, it’s probably a mixture of corn syrup, cane syrup, and a slew of artificial ingredients and sweeteners.
Some people take this blasphemy very serious, so much so that there was a law being pushed forward that would make it illegal to sell fake maple syrup. The Huffington Post reported, “Legislation would make the sale of fraudulent maple syrup a felony offense with up to a five year maximum penalty. Currently, it is only a misdemeanor. The MAPLE (Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement ) Act aims to protect the producers of maple syrup.”
While it’s best to go with a natural fruit topping for your favorite breakfast items, we know that is not going to always happen. The next time you’re at the store, it might be worth spending the extra couple dollars to get something authentic versus a melting pot of artificiality.
Since maple syrup is all-natural, here is a link to buy your own tap kit. It does not come with a flannel shirt or wool beanie.
Bacon is one heck of a trendy item right now. As it should be—it is delicious. You can put bacon on just about anything and it will increase the flavor, texture, and bode well for foodie photos. However, you have to be careful when eating it because while it may be called bacon, it may be something else.
Enter bacon bits. The biggest shock we learned is that those little bacon bits are actually vegetarian! Greatist explains what they’re made from: “Lacking any animal products, these crispy bites are made of artificially flavored textured soy flour and other ingredients including caramel color, maltodextrin, yeast extract, and flavor enhancers called disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.”
So technically if you’re vegetarian you could eat these little toppers, but we warn you, it may not be the best idea. If you’re really craving some bacon, you could always buy an actual package, cook it, and then refrigerate the leftovers and use when needed.
Craving the best meat product around? Here is a list of 20 delicious recipes involving bacon—real bacon that is.