Convenience foods are just that — convenient. As a mother, I fully understand the urge to have convenience foods ready so that I can grab them as the kids and I head out the door to run errands or meetup with others for a play date. If we didn’t leave the house with at least some snack food, I’d be even more tempted to eat out than I already am. After all, nobody likes being hungry. Being crammed into a car with a group of hungry kids? Now that’s a recipe for soaring tempers, picky squabbling, and other unpleasantries.
I have to confess, crackers like these Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies are tempting. They’re the perfect size for a toddler’s grasp. They pack easily in ziplock baggies and tuck nicely away into a purse or handbag. And they’re certified organic! They even profess to be GMO-free and have 0g of trans fats. Even the cheese used is organic and growth-hormone free.
Here’s what the manufacturer claims:
- No cholesterol
- No sugar added
- 0g trans fat
- Low saturated fat
- Contains no-GMOs
It sounds like every momma’s dream snack; am I right? I mean, what else could you ask for?
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies: Ingredients
- Organic Wheat Flour,
- Organic Expeller Pressed Vegetable Oil (Safflower and/or Sunflower),
- Organic Cheddar Cheese (Organic Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes),
- Yeast Extract,
- Organic Paprika,
- Annatto Extract For Natural Color,
- Organic Ground Celery Seed,
- Organic Onion Powder,
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies: DECODED
So, let’s start with enumerating all the praise-worthy parts of this food. Every major ingredient is certified organic. YAY. There are no hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils hiding dangerous trans fats! YAY. Even the cheddar cheese used to bake these bad boys is made from organic milk — meaning the cows spend a healthy portion of their lives outside and are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics. YAY!
Now, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients to see what we can uncover.
As I’ve said before, I’m ambivalent about the organic wheat flour. There is a right way to eat grains — a way to make sure they’re properly prepared so that they’re easier to digest. Refined flours are not the right way, even if they’re organic. That said, I maybe — maybe — wouldn’t stress about their presence in a convenience food if it were the only questionable thing wrong with the product. After all, almost every store bought convenience foods requires some sort of compromise. The only ideal food is the food I make in my own kitchen, using ingredients I’ve gathered from the local farmers I trust. So maybe I wouldn’t object to this ingredient, maybe I’d think the compromise was worthwhile, if this were the only thing I found objectionable.
But, this isn’t the only refined, industrialized ingredient found in this food. Nope. Look at that organic expeller-pressed vegetable oil. Organic and natural food labels greenwash their highly refined, industrial oils by saying they’re “organic” and “expeller-pressed”, as if that somehow makes them healthier.
Newsflash! It doesn’t.
Safflower oil is an ancient oil, but the ancient methods of creating it made it suitable only for use in paints. It wasn’t until 1925 that modern, industrial methods of extracting oils from seeds were able to extract an edible oil from the plant. Expeller-pressing subjects the seed to high-pressure and high-temperatures. For a highly-saturated fat (like, say, coconut oil), this wouldn’t matter. But for unsaturated fats, this extraction process rapidly oxidizes the fragile polyunsaturated oils in the seed. Translation? It means they go rancid. In order to make these stinky, rancid oils palatable, they’re then subjected to chemical bleaching and deodorization. The same is true for sunflower oil.
Sadly, there’s something even more glaringly wrong with this food.
Have you spotted it yet?
No thank you, Annie’s.
Unfortunately, it’s perfectly legal for a company to say their food product has “No added MSG” so long as they don’t add an ingredient called “monosodium glutamate” to their food. MSG, however, hides in more than 40 commonly used ingredients in industrial food — ingredients like yeast extract. This means MSG can sneak up on you in a whole host of foods that don’t technically have a single ingredient called monosodium glutamate listed on their label.
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies: THE VERDICT
So, what should you use instead?
Of course, the best option is to make your own crackers. My favorite homemade crackers are these Grain-Free Garlic Rosemary Crackers.
While I’m a fan of making my own convenience foods, I also know that sometimes that’s not very practical in our hectic world. So, when I want to buy a store bought cracker, I buy these Mary’s Gone Crackers Gluten-Free, Original Flavored Crackers. They have zero objectionable ingredients and are flavored with a naturally-fermented Tamari sauce.
Granted, they’re not cheese crackers. Honestly, I’ve never seen a cheese cracker that doesn’t contain yeast extract or another form of hidden MSG. Have you? Please let us know if you find any good cheese crackers in the comments below.
Want Your Labels Decoded?
In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!