What’s in it?: Ritz bits Cheese crackers

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In my quest to do the best things possible for my family, I have been evaluating our food choices.  It’s no secret that obesity is at the highest levels ever, and despite all of our medical advances we don’t seem to be much healthier overall.  In fact, it seems like we have new problems plaguing our health that we never had before.

Allergies, asthma and food intolerances seem to be at an all-time high and all doctors want to do is medicate to reduce the symptoms.

But what about trying to find the cause?

One such theory about the cause of some of these things is our diets and our food supply.  Not only are we eating things filled with preservatives, our food supply has been infected with pesticides and hormones in order to grow bigger and “better” food.  And the sad part is that people are fooled into thinking that simply eating “right” is the solution for better health, when in reality all you are doing is trading preservatives for poison.  In many cases fruits and vegetables are covered in pesticides and have the possibility do more harm than good for your overall health when it comes to having a healthy and balanced body that works as it was designed to.

In order to help understand what we eat here in my house and begin to make a change, I decided look at the labels on the foods we have in our pantry.  Overall we don’t gorge on this stuff, we eat what would be considered a fairly healthy diet by many standards, but I’m learning that healthy isn’t what it appears to be.  We have some products in our pantry for those times when we might be on-the-go or just need something quick to satisfy the masses before dinner, but I’m learning that convenience is actually harming our bodies.

It is my job as a parent to do what is best for my children and so I have started evaluating EVERYTHING we put into our bodies.

Before I start picking apart labels I want to state 3 things so you know where I am coming from.

  1. I am new to this.  I am reading and learning and absorbing as much information as I can.  I am no expert but I am trying to learn.
  2. Not everyone can afford to eat organic and this in no way is meant to place judgment on anyone else’s lifestyle.  I want to share what I learn in case it does help someone, because I believe you can eat better with some knowledge, good planning and a little passion without breaking the bank.
  3. I am also not passing judgment on the brands indicated on these products.  They create products that fit into the demand of the consumer; I just think that maybe the average consumer might want to demand something different.

The first product I am looking at is Ritz bits Cheese crackers from Nabisco (Kraft Foods).

I love Kraft.  I have worked with them and I believe they try and create tasty products that make a mom’s life easier.  But I am going to analyze the ingredients of these crackers one-by-one to see exactly what is in it and what I allow my kids to put into their bodies.

Ritz bits Cheese crackers

From the package:

Ingredients breakdown:

Unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate – vitamin B1 & folic acid)

This doesn’t sound half bad right?  We know that bleached flour isn’t any good, but this is unbleached wheat flour with added vitamins.  Good right?  Well, the reason the flour is unbleached is because they remove the dark layers of the wheat (white flour comes from wheat) to expose the lighter inner layer.  They make the flour from the inner layer.  The problem is the outer 2 layers of bran and germ contain the vitamins.  So, the vitamins are put back in artificially.

Soybean and/or palm oil

While not necessarily hydrogenated, therefore, not high in trans fats, both of these oils are high in types of fats that are bad for our bodies.

Whey

Whey is the by-product from making cheese and is very high in protein.

Sugar

Added sugar is a culprit for weight gain in our diets.  It causes an insulin response that triggers our fat storage to go into action.

Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil

Contains trans-fats and is high in saturated fat.  Trans-fats have been shown to significantly raise bad cholesterol levels and on top of that, it also lowers good cholesterol.

High fructose corn syrup

We all know the controversy surrounding HFCS, and regardless of where you stand, it is still a processed sugar added to the product that causes your body to store fat.

Cheddar cheese powder

Some cheddar cheese powders can be made organic and naturally through a dehydration process.  I have no idea how this powder was created.

Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is predominantly omega-6 rich which if not balanced with enough omega-3 in your diet can cause problems.

Salt

Sodium is a huge issue in our diets and should be avoided, but a small amount is ok.  These crackers contain 160 mg of sodium per serving.  The recommended maximum sodium intake from the FDA for an average healthy adult is 1500 mg per day.  These crackers contains more than 1-tenth of your daily allowance in just 13 tiny crackers.

Leavening

This is basically yeast, bread won’t rise without it.  Even organic breads require yeast, though I’m not exactly sure where it comes from and if you can get it in an organic variety, though I believe you can.

Disodium phosphate

This is a preservative.  It slows bacteria growth in foods but also acts as a leavening agent.  Disodium phosphate can cause irritation to your respiratory tract and skin and eyes.

Soy lecithin

This is oil derived from soybeans, which are quite a controversial topic.   Most of the soybean product today is genetically modified and soybeans themselves in their raw form are toxic.  Soybean crops are also heavily covered in pesticides.  Unless it says non-gmo (genetically modified organism) product, you should avoid soy products.  This package does not specify.

Dried yeast

Dried yeast is another rather benign ingredient that is used to make bread rise.  Organic yeast would be void of pesticides; this product does not use organic yeast.

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is essentially an artificial sweetener.  Artificial sweeteners trick your body and confuse it.  While nothing has been proven and most sweeteners remain “safe” according to the FDA, we have no idea about the long term effects of them on our bodies.

Artificial color

Artificial colors are chemicals that make food a specific color or more vibrant in color.  Many people have developed serious allergies to artificial colors and they have been linked to thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney, and brain cancers

Natural flavor

Natural flavor isn’t really as good as it sounds.  It’s not like they take a specific natural product – say an orange – and add the juice.  If they did that, it would say that.  Natural flavors are still created in a lab using natural chemicals but they could be a combination of any number of things to achieve the taste they are looking for.

Modified tapioca starch

This is a thickening agent that turns into a gel and is used in many things from these crackers to plywood and batteries.  It has many more non-food applications than food applications.  I could not find any real information about it being unsafe but it is derived from corn, tapioca, rice, wheat or any number of other grains or starches.

Buttermilk

Buttermilk is the liquid milk that remains after churning butter.  As with most dairy products, when it is not labeled organic you risk the chances of it containing hormones, antibiotics and other additives that don’t “do a body good”.

Malted barley flour

Barley is actually a very healthy whole grain.  Malted barley flour is barley that has been dried and ground into flour.

Lactic acid

I haven’t found conclusive information about lactic acid.  It is supposedly good for your muscles and is a basically a good bacteria that keeps the bad bacteria from forming.  In this case it is used as a preservative, but I’m not sure how it is created.  In our bodies it is created to help our muscles produce it to obtain energy.  Overall the information I found showed this to be a natural process and a better preservative than most of them.

So, after reading all that, what are your thoughts about it?

It’s a whole lot different than eating something whole, real and natural with a single ingredient.  Pesticides aside, nothing else is in an apple besides an apple.  What you see is what you get, especially if you eat organic.  The trick to organic produce is eating in season.  In season it is often not much more expensive than the regular produce.

Will you think twice next time you pick up a pre-packaged food?  Will you read the label and question what is in it?  Will you consider putting it back on the shelf?

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Comments

  1. says

    Every time I read the labels on my food, I freak out a wee bit. It’s scary seeing all the additives and preservatives that are pumped into our bodies through the food we eat :(

  2. says

    Reading labels makes me not want to eat anything. LOL We’ve cut out a lot of processed foods because they are all just full of crap! When we eat junk now, we make sure it’s worth it – it had better be delicious if I’m going to eat it…

  3. says

    When I went on a major weight loss and food package reading 3 years ago, I learned a lot! I read labels like crazy and especially check the first 4 ingredients for the dirty dozen. This does not include items in parenthesis. Always check for sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, dextrose, maltose, corn syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, maltitol, modified corn starch and corn starch. If any of these are in the first 4 ingredients I usually put it back on the shelf as that means there is more of that product than any other ingredient.

    It amazes me how many breads start with enriched flour(even whole wheat) and then list sugar or HFCS. Ugh this irritates me!

  4. says

    Oh, and when you’re ready to be really grossed out, read this post I wrote awhile ago….you’ll look at all red foods differently from now on :) http://www.miscfinds4u.com/blog/2010/04/02/disgusting-food-additives-in-every-day-foods-carminic-acid/ And red 40 is used in lots of foods as well and it’s made from petroleum products. When I see the “Red Velvet” trend going on right now on blogs it makes me sad.

    So many good places for info – if you’d like a few of my favs let me know, I’d be happy to share.

  5. says

    This is why I refuse to eat anything that is not organic. I’m an avid label reader and I never drink pop or eat junk food. EEK! It’s so scary what they put in products!!!

  6. says

    Here’s what I take for a snack instead of Ritz Bitz – they’re better tasting, less greasy, and have fewer ingredients. Still processed, but I take them when I travel because they’re better than anything I can find in the machines or room service – I’m a vegetarian too so I also carry a ind packet in my purse on trips because I never know if there’s going to be anything I will/can eat at events. BTW, their cookies are amazing, too :)

    I’m obese because of my MS but I have amazing cholesterol, sugar, etc., and I credit that to great food.

    Late July, Organic Mini Peanut Butter Bite Size Sandwich Crackers, 5 oz
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=late+july&x=0&y=0
    Ingredients

    Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Peanut Butter (Dry Roasted Organic Blanched Peanuts, Organic Palm Oil, Organic Sugar, Salt), Organic Sunflower Oil and or Safflower Oil, Organic Brown Cane Sugar, Organic Palm Oil, Sea Salt, Organic Malt Extract, Ammonium Bicarbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Organic Soy Lecithin, Enzymes.

  7. says

    Absolutely. I’m thinking about it all the time. I just found out the Capri Sun has artificial sweeteners that some people can’t digest…or something to that effect. This year I’m really making it my focus to get more natural -and we do it pretty healthy in my home-but more natural foods into my children and me.

  8. says

    Thanks Kim. I’ve been trying to do better and only make homemade foods. I’m no where near perfect, though. Sometimes those recipes still call for prepackaged foods. I’m working on it though

  9. says

    With the hormones in cow’s milk and the treatment of most cows, we switched to Almond Milk. It has a significantly higher amount of calcium and it’s delicious. The kids enjoy non-sugary cereals more with the flavor of the almond milk.

    Very informative post. I am still guilty of feeding my children pre-packaged crap on occasion as well, but it’s a learning process and as Melissa said going cold turkey might cause a revolution in our household :O)

  10. says

    Kim, this is great and such an informative post for everyone! One of my resolutions this year was to eat healthier foods such as fruits and veggies. Last week I happened to catch a documentary called Food Inc. and it scared the crap out of me. I now want to know EVERYTHING there is to know about what we are putting into our bodies. At first I wanted to clear everything out of our pantry but I realized it would be hard for everyone else to go “cold turkey” so I have started to slowly implement change. I did throw away the high sugar cereals and told my kids they were out of luck on this one. I also made homemade granola, switched to organic milk and eggs. I really hope that over the next few weeks and months we can start to eat less and less processed foods and hopefully hit up the farmers markets when they open.

    • says

      Mellisa, we started with the switch to organic milk and eggs too. And any fruits & veggies I buy from now on will be organic. I think people have this idea that organic and fresh costs more, but I bet that cooking from scratch despite using organics probably ends up costing less. I also have been making my own bread. It must cost me less than 50 cents for a loaf. That is another experiment I want to do. Buy the ingredients for bread, use them up, see how many loaves I get out of it, and come up with the actual cost per loaf. Have you looked at a bread label? There are like 40 ingredients in there, my whole wheat has 4 plus yeast if I do a basic loaf.

      I am not doing “cold turkey” because I don’t feel I am ready yet. We are not buying new stuff but I want to wean them off the old junk by finding good alternatives that they like. So far I did find organic granola bars (I want to make my own) and 100% fruit organic fruit leather). I also found organic canned ravioli but I want to evaluate what is in it.

  11. Barbara M says

    Thanks for this post.
    You are so right!
    I’m learning to eat cleaner and now check a lot of food labels.
    Amazing what one can find.

  12. cy says

    Won’t eat it, won’t buy it. Most grains and also most sugar beets are GM. Also enriched flour is bad because it is bromated. We do not eat grains and starches as they also cause inflammation.
    Funny, I never saw a box of these growing in the field. Processed foods are not good for you and your family,

    I like this article.

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