Chocolate by any other name is . . . well . . . crap!

I was about to give my eldest daughter a snack of what I thought was a chocolate treat similar to the Rosebuds chocolate treat I enjoyed when I was young.  They were called Rosebuds because of the shape of the small diameter morsels that resembled the flower which usually decorates the trim of a cake.

In this instance, the current day brand was Brookside Foods’ Starbuds.

Now while I have to admit that the word chocolate did not appear anywhere on the package, given the picture of cascading “chocolate looking” morsels one might be forgiven for assuming that chocolate was somehow part of the equation.  Especially when you are traversing rapidly down the aisles of the local supermarket with a 5 and 3 year old and, a 9 week old baby in tow.  Those of you who are parents will know what I mean.

So here we are, back at home and my daughter asks for a little treat.  I reach for the bag of Starbuds, a “Delicious Bite Size Candy” it proclaims, and for some reason decide to read the back of the package before doling out the goodies .

A Delicious Bite Size Candy!

As I read about the company, I start to feel good about my drive by treat selection:

“Brookside is Canadian owned with manufacturing facilities in Abbottsford, British Columbia and Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec.  Everyone at Brookside is committed to using the finest, wholesome ingredients in the preparation of this confection to ensure that they can be enjoyed with confidence and satisfaction.”

Way to go Dad!  Even though it is not fruit or vegetables, at least it is “wholesome.”

I then read the listed ingredients; Sugar, Modified Palm Kernel Oil, Whey Powder, Cocoa Powder, Soya Lecithin, Salt, Artificial Flavor.

Let’s see . . . Modified Palm Kernel Oil is a saturated fat which has been linked to cardiovascular disease.  Put a thumbs down or big “X” here.

How about Whey Powder?  Even though whey powder or protein is deemed in some circles to be a “superstar” ingredient that is beneficial for a variety of  products including those “formulated for weight loss, infant nutrition and immune support,” researchers at Lund University in Sweden discovered that whey appears to stimulate insulin release.  I am not sure that this is a good thing, especially when it is consumed by children.

It is also worthwhile to note that not all references to whey powder is the same in that as the concentration of the protein decreases, the amount of both fat and lactose increases.  At this point in time, there is no such breakdown to help to determine the true level of the protein actually used in the product being produced.  Put a question mark here.

Butter Milk Powder and Skim Milk Powder as well as whole milk and whey products are dried into a powder form and used for human and animal consumption.   According to my research, because milk is about 88% water  it is much cheaper to transport the dried product, and therefore makes a great deal of sense in the production of a product such as our good old Starbuds.

In the absence of any real evidence to the contrary, these seem to be good ingredients with no ill effects relative to consumption.  Mark a thumbs up or big “Check-mark” here.

Soya Lecithin is an additive that is frequently used in small amounts in everyday foods, where it rarely exceeds more than 1 percent of the weight of any food product.  Working as as an emulsifier in candy bars, it keeps the cocoa and cocoa butter from separating.  There is of course some cocoa powder in the Starbuds product so this is a necessary ingredient.

In a 2007 Q&A on the CHOW website, dietitian and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association Tara Gidus, even suggested that soy lecithin is not bad for you.  In fact, high in choline, it is often used as a nutritional supplement and, in an interesting twist may actually be effective in treating dementia.   Another “Check-mark” with this ingredient.

Sugar, the first ingredient listed, which usually signifies that it weighs the most in terms of all the ingredients used to make the product (and salt – which is listed at the end), are perhaps what one may call natural ingredients with potentially lethal side effects.

In a January 20th, 2010 post titled “Pepsi’s Sugar, Childhood Obesity and Twitter’s Swiss Cheese” I talked about the fact that sugar – especially when consumed by children has many negative side effects including weight gain and diabetes.

So while sugar (and salt) in and of itself in moderation is not a bad thing, given that sugar is the “main” ingredient in the Starbuds product, and cocoa is one of the lesser ingredients it would be difficult to conclude that this is truly a wholesome product.  Especially when you add into the mix the artificial flavor component.

After all, whenever you have a chemically produced flavoring substitute in which food manufacturers are “sometimes reluctant about informing consumers about the source from where the flavor is obtained,” it is hardly an endorsement.

The above revelations lead to the following obvious questions . . . what is a wholesome treat, and why would Brookside make reference to “using the finest, wholesome ingredients in the preparation of this confection to ensure that they can be enjoyed with confidence and satisfaction?” in relation to their Starbuds product?

If they are comparing wholesome ingredients and even taste from the standpoint of a chocolate treat, then Dad missed the mark with his selection of  Starbuds.

To illustrate my point, consider M&M’s from Mars Chocolate North America, whose Real Chocolate Relief Act campaign is based on the pledge to “continue to make real chocolate with 100% cocoa butter for its U.S. chocolate products.”

Bearing in mind once again, that the first ingredient is usually the most prevalent and the last ingredient the least, here is how the M&M’s ingredients are listed on its packaging; Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Milk Ingredients, Cocoa Butter, Lactose, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Artificial Flavors), Sugar, Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Gum Acacia, Color (Contains Tartrazine), Tapioca Dextrin, Carnuba Wax.

Okay, so to start at least chocolate is the most predominant ingredient in what is supposed to be a chocolate treat.  By the way, you can definitely taste the difference between Starbuds, which has a kind of waxy taste and texture to it and M&M’s, which does deliver a chocolate taste and texture.

But here is the thing, are both products the same as having to take a cousin to your graduation dance in that the only difference is that one is from your Mom’s side of the family, and the other – slightly prettier one, is from your Dad’s side of the family.  The latter may look better, but in the end it is still your cousin.

In terms of our Starbuds and M&M’s comparison, while one may have more actual chocolate in it, can either really be called “wholesome” or “Real Food?”

The last time I looked at a banana or an apple I didn’t see an ingredient scale of predominance on either.

Where's the list of ingredients

Perhaps we need to revisit our definition of what real and wholesome actually means when it comes to the foods that we consume?

PS – I just recently stopped drinking the fructose laden pop beverages such as Coca Cola, and instead am drinking either mineral water or the new fruit infused vegetable juices from V8.

I have to tell you that I am feeling less tired and am actually enjoying my home cooking far more than I did when I was consuming the other beverages.  I will keep you posted.


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