Green Bean

The treat store

Stepping away from high-fructose corn syrup takes some will power

0 Comments 01 September 2010

by

I was thrilled when the Yogurt Tap opened in Decatur, but I had to have a hysterical mom moment before I embraced the place my 3-year-old daughter now calls the Treat Store.

I composed a brief, desperate e-mail to the owner: “Is your product sweetened with corn syrup? No judgment, just wondering!” She immediately responded that their yogurt is sweetened with pure cane sugar. We’ve been frequenting the Treat Store ever since.

What would I have done if the yogurt was sweetened with the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup? Would I have boycotted an otherwise healthy and ineffably delectable product?

Like most efforts to live a more healthy, conscious and environmentally sensitive life, the path is not marked by clear, solid science. The case against corn syrup is compelling, especially the recent study from Princeton that found mice who consumed corn syrup got a lot fatter than mice that ate sugar. The indictment sounded simple enough. But critics, including at least one not tied to the corn industry, criticized the methodology.

Much of the so-called research indicating corn syrup poses no greater risk of obesity than sugar is funded by corporations that have a vested interest in keeping us hooked on HFCS.

Despite the inconclusive data, I decided to phase out corn syrup as best I could. Even if corn syrup is no worse than sugar, foods sweetened with corn syrup tend to be processed, fattening and nutritionally void. No wonder the stuff tastes so good.

So far, cutting down on corn syrup hasn’t been that big of a deal. I skip the Fiber One bars, even though I tried one and found it rich and satisfying. Those old-school, crunchy Nature Valley granola bars don’t contain corn syrup. They taste OK, especially the peanut butter variety.

I miss Special K with dried strawberries, a snack/supper substitute my daughter and I both liked. The cereal seemed healthy enough until I read the label. No cereal maker loves corn syrup as much as Kellogg’s. Life, made by Quaker, doesn’t contain corn syrup. And the cinnamon variety isn’t bad, if you’re starving.

Corn syrup is the new trans fat, and many items like bread, yogurt and even cranberry juice are labeled HFCS-free. I found a few processed snacks made without corn syrup or trans fat, including an overpriced, 100-calorie pack of shortbread cookies.

Luckily, the product didn’t lose the chemical taste of processed foods I grew up on.

A child of the ’70s, I was raised to appreciate Twinkies, Wacky Wafers and Pop Tarts, products that share the distinctive, glorious taste of artificial flavors. I’m not quite ready to give up that guilty pleasure along with HFCS.

Over time, though, I hope to quit scouring labels for junk food that doesn’t contain corn syrup or trans fat yet still possesses that nostalgic taste. Over time, I’d like to give up processed food altogether and reign in my sugar consumption.

I hope to learn to like foods that are genuinely, honestly healthy. I’m also trying to raise my daughter to like foods that are genuinely, honestly healthy. Fresh fruit, for example. Preferably organic, in season and locally grown. But at least not wrapped in plastic.

So far, my child loves fruit, not that she would choose it over junk food, which has the same hold over her that it had (has) over me. The difference is she doesn’t get to stuff her face with junk every day like I did growing up. I had Little Debbie. She has the Treat Store.

In a twist of brilliance, I can have my all-natural, 90-calorie, probiotic-rich frozen yogurt and Little Debbie. At the Yogurt Tap, my favorite topping is the chemical bliss known as an Oatmeal Creme Pie. Corn syrup is the first ingredient listed.

I’m a work in progress, OK?

Patti Ghezzi lives in Avondale Estates and is founding partner of Greater Good Communication.

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