So sad…my guilty pleasure just became more guilt and less pleasure. Why is that? I looked at the ingredients list. Apparently, all of that deliciousness actually is a high-tech chemistry experiment.
Here’s the story…
When my husband, Ron, and I drove from New York to Denver for the first time more than 35 years ago, we had two places we stopped for food along the way—Perkins Pancake House (the best omelets ever)…and Dairy Queen for the Blizzards. They were soooo delicious!
Of course, in those days, I still lived on sweets and not so much healthy food. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I changed my dietary ways. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a Blizzard in more than 30 years.
That is, until last summer, when my husband and I drove from Colorado to California. There we were in June in the arid New Mexico desert with a temperature of 115°F. Yet there was a Dairy Queen, an oasis in the desert. We had to stop.
You know how some foods that you loved as a child just aren’t as good when you eat them again as an adult? Well, that wasn’t the case with the Blizzard. It was insanely delicious. We split one and finished the whole thing.
The next day, we had another long drive, so we rationalized that we could treat ourselves again—this time, we each got our own Mini. And yes, I ate the whole thing—chocolate raspberry…every bite of it.
Ron and I decided that this would be our new tradition…that when we go on a big road trip, we could stop at Dairy Queen, but, of course, there would be no DQ when we are at home. That’s what makes treats special versus everyday occurrences.
I even went so far as to put a DQ gift card in his Christmas stocking marked “for our next road trip.” I was really looking forward to my future Blizzard.
But tonight, he and I were reminiscing about another old favorite—Baskin Robbins Winter White Chocolate Ice Cream—and that prompted me to look at the ingredients for the oh-so-delicious Blizzard. And OMG…it is oh-so-bad. For example, this is what is in the Sea Salt Toffee Fudge Blizzard—the flavor I would pick if I went there today…
Artificially Flavored Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream: Milkfat and Nonfat Milk, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Whey, Mono and Diglycerides, Artificial Flavor, Guar Gum, Polysorbate 80, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate
Brownie Dough Pieces: Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Margarine (Palm Oil, Water, Soybean Oil, Salt, Mono & Diglycerides, Colored with Annatto. Citric Acid added as a preservative, Vitamin A Palmitate. Natural Flavor), Fructose, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Water, Brown Sugar, Natural Cocoa, Canola Oil, Powdered Sugar (Sugar, Corn Starch), Natural Flavor, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt.
Caramel Fudge Topping: Corn Syrup, Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk (Condensed Skim Milk, Sugar, Corn Syrup), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Butter (Cream, Salt), Corn Syrup Solids, Water, Salt, Disodium Phosphate, Pectin, Artificial Flavors
Praline Candy Pieces: Sugar, Butter (Cream, Salt), Corn Syrup, Powdered Sugar (Sugar, Corn Starch), Corn Starch, Salt, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Silicon Dioxide
Sweet and Salty Sprinkle: Sugar, Salt, Natural Flavor (Contains Dairy Components)
Sugar or sugar variants are listed 15 times…and seven additives to “emulsify” and improve the product’s texture. It’s ice cream, so it’s no surprise that there are a lot of sweeteners and texture ingredients on the label. But since there are only three ingredients in the ice cream that I make at home (heavy cream, sugar, vanilla), the 12 ingredients for the Blizzard’s ice cream base seems rather high.
Do you want to know what all those somewhat frightening words mean? I thought I’d do a review of them since my eyes glaze over when I see all of the syllables on the ingredients lists of processed food. Here you go…
Annatto: Seeds from the achiote tree, native to tropical regions from Mexico to Brazil, used to color foods yellow-orange-red.
Artificial Flavor: Besides the obvious fact that these are artificial, artificial flavors have been linked to a laundry list of health issues ranging from cancer to neurological issues and emotional and psychiatric problems.
Carrageenan: Emulsifier/thickener made from red seaweed.
Corn Syrup: Essentially liquid sugar made from corn starch and water.
Disodium Phosphate: Lab-created salt, disodium, phosphate is used as an emulsifier, preservative and flavor enhancer.
Guar Gum: Another emulsifier and thickening agent made from guar bean. Frequently used in dairy products, condiments and baked goods. Not health food, but not bad.
High Fructose Corn Syrup: While excessive sugar is bad for you, high fructose corn syrup (HCFS) is even worse. There are many studies linking HFCS to inflammation, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive issues and more. A recent study published in Evolution and Human Behavior also linked consumption of HCFS to emotional and behavioral problems, including ADHD, bipolar disorder and aggression.
Mono and Diglycerides: These emulsifiers are added to foods to keep oil and water combined and make that creamy texture last. They sound scary but actually are naturally occurring fats. This doesn’t make them healthy—but at least they’re not synthetic.
Polysorbate 80: A synthetic emulsifier associated with increased inflammation, metabolic syndrome, colitis and an overall change in the gut flora.
Fructose: A naturally occurring sugar found in fruit. But as a separate ingredient, fructose concentrated into crystals actually has been measured to have 1.3 to 1.8 times the sweetness of sucrose, which definitely increases our threshold for sweetness. Approximately one-third of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are thought to have difficulty absorbing fructose.
Pectin: Fiber from fruit used as a thickener.
Potassium Sorbate: A salt used as a preservative.
Silicon Dioxide: Found in rocks and sand, there are many uses of silicon dioxide in foods, including as an anti-caking agent to improve texture.
Soy Lecithin: Extracted from soy beans, the oil is used as an emulsifier.
Sugar: Sugar in all of its forms is used by the brain and body for energy. But excessive sugar, in all of its forms, causes inflammation and is connected to diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. The American Heart Association Recommended Daily Allowance for added sugar is nine teaspoons/day (36 grams of sugar) for men and six teaspoons (25 grams) for women. Yet one mini Blizzard has 46 grams of sugar, and a 12-ounce can of soda has about eight teaspoons, or 33.76 grams, of sugar.
Vitamin A Palmitate: This fortifies the margarine used to make the brownie pieces in the Blizzard. It really is a vitamin.
The good news is that some of those scary-sounding items aren’t so bad…but some are dangerous and should not be consumed regularly, if ever (artificial flavoring, HFCS). While I have picked on Dairy Queen for this blog, the very sad truth is that these types of food additives and ingredients are in many packaged products, especially baked goods and sweet treats, in grocery stores, in particular high fructose corn syrup.
So here’s a question—if the labeling on packages stated which ingredients were natural and which were chemical…or flagged those that have been linked to disease, would you still buy the product? Or would you make a different choice? Perhaps not buy it…or buy it but reduce your consumption of it.
As for our next road trip…the above list reinforces why treats remain rare treats for me. I will likely still have that Blizzard when on the road…and savor every bite of it…after I eat my salad for lunch.