Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

How Many Ingredients Are In That? – Cooks Beware

Beware of "simple" recipes that can be loaded with hidden ingredients
Beware of “simple” recipes that can be loaded with hidden ingredients

‘Tis the season for holiday recipes, especially on social media. I love recipes. I get great ideas; sometimes on what to cook, sometimes on what not to cook. One recipe in particular piqued my interest this morning while scrolling Facebook. It was titled, “The Easiest 3 Ingredient Dessert Recipe You’ll Ever Love.” Well, I love easy desserts and it sounded like it might be somewhat healthy, containing only 3 ingredients, so I clicked on it.

Here are the 3 ingredients:
1 stick butter
1 can of peaches in heavy syrup
1 box of vanilla cake mix.

Say what? 3 ingredients? I don’t think so. Knowing that there can be lots of additives in a box of cake mix and a can of peaches in heavy syrup, that sounded more like a 30 ingredient dessert recipe to me.

Not having either of those “ingredients” in my pantry, I decided to be a food sleuth and further investigate my hunch by going to the market to check out the ingredient list on a box of yellow cake mix and a can of peaches in heavy syrup.

Well, I am sorry to inform you that my hunch was wrong. It wasn’t 30 ingredients. It was 35! When I added up all of 1) vitamins (due to wheat being stripped of its nutrients when processed) 2) sugars 3) food colorings 4) preservatives in the cake mix and all of the sugars in the peaches it totaled 35 ingredients including the butter. Yikes! That doesn’t sound like a 3 ingredient recipe. Nor is it the least bit healthy.

Easy was correct marketing for making this dessert. I don’t have a problem with that. The rest wasn’t truthful. Truthful marketing would have been:

“The Easiest 3 ITEM Dessert Recipe You’ll Ever Love,” not  “The easiest 3 ingredient Dessert Recipe You’ll Ever Love.”

Now some of you may say that it’s just semantics. Item, ingredient, what difference does it make? It makes a big difference. If you are a person on a restricted diet for illness, health issues, food allergies or weight loss, using the term ingredients correctly is mandatory for maintaining health, wellness and weight.

Studies have shown that those who read food labels and know exactly what they are eating have better success with losing and maintaining weight loss. Unfortunately, most people wouldn’t take the time to read the box of cake mix or the can of peaches. I am a nutrition coach and even I was stunned to read that the peaches had four types of sugar (I had thought two) added to the can in addition to the naturally occurring fruit sugar in the peaches.

Taking this a step further, you should know that deceptive food marketing is big business in our country and can often dupe the savviest of shoppers. Even the health food industry is guilty of tricking consumers into buying their products under false pretense. This is why the FDA mandates that foods be labeled and marketed correctly and fines those that don’t comply with its strict regulations.

Remember, knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your health and wellness. Protect yourself as a consumer by learning how to read a food label.  On the FDA’s website, there’s a detailed and thorough tutorial on food labels. It’s well worth the investment of your time.

Knowing exactly what you are eating is mandatory for living a healthy lifestyle. Fully read recipes, food packages and menu items in restaurants before cooking or buying.

Be a food sleuth this holiday season and year round!


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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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  1. “One recipe in particular peeked my interest”–the correct word is “piqued”, as in “stimulated”. Not “peeked”, as in “glanced furtively”. I thought you’d like to know. 🙂


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