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Don’t Let The Word “Vegetable” Fool You; Especially Not In Häagen-Dazs’ New Tomato Ice Cream

Image: Brand Eating

Magical health words, they get us every time.

‘Fat-free.’ ‘Antioxidant-rich.’ ‘Electrolytes.’ ‘Organic.’ ‘40% less fat than…XYZ.’ These misleading phrases sneak up on labels everywhere, and while they can be true, they often over-exaggerate a product’s true nutritional content. This causes us to justify our eating and feel that we can consume even more.

This phenomenon, known as the health halo effect, lends a positive, good-for-you attribution to foods that really don’t deserve it at all.1 We are more likely to let our guard down around restaurants and brands that claim to be organic, vitamin-enriched, and jam-packed with this, that, and the next superfood. Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab have taken a look at this concept, and while it can seem non-threatening, deceptive claims can create distinct dietary patterns over time, leading to long-term weight gain from truly unhealthy choices.

Pre-made smoothies, vitamin-enhanced beverages, cereal, and anything with the word ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ on it is most likely to catch your eye. But have a spoonful of this: on May 12th, Häagen-Dazs Japan will debut its new vegetable ice cream, part of its “Spoon Vege” series. Flavors like ‘Tomato Cherry’ and ‘Carrot Orange’ will be available, and according to a press release, contain 8.5% milkfat — more than half of what a regular pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream contains.

Because the ingredients and nutrition facts of the Spoon Vege flavors have not been released, we can’t offer specifics. But we can take a look at items that are already on the market, like the variety of brands that sell ‘vegetable chips‘ as a comparison. Their first ingredient is typically potato flour, followed by sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn starch, and salt. Tomato puree, spinach, beet powder, and others make up the bottom of the ingredient list, and justify the word ‘vegetable’ in their title — but they’re FAR from veggies in chip form.

In other words, it’s a low-fat potato chip. No garden was used in the making.


Don’t Be Fooled — The Bottom Line

While this new flavor-line of desserts will only be available in Japan, remember that we live in a world that constantly brings in ideas from other places. Don’t be surprised if you see an asparagus sorbet or a kale-flavored gelato popping up in the frozen section soon. Sticking to the produce aisle, where the real vegetables are, will give you what you need.

And remember — just because something is organic, all-natural, fat-free, or sugar-free, doesn’t mean it’s healthy (at all). Soda, ice cream, and other processed food manufacturers excel at covering up faults and marketing effectively. Be a smart consumer and use your best judgement.

Looking for more about misleading and mislabeled products? Check out these 17 false food claims that the FDA found problematic.2

Julie Fine

Content Specialist at Lean It Up
Julie Fine is an AFAA-CGF, Beachbody INSANITY Coach, former chunky gal, 110% pure fitness junkie and an SEC-lovin' sorority girl at the University of Missouri.

When she isn't spending her extra time as a campus tour guide (Go Tigers!), she's probably scrounging around the aisles of Barnes & Noble or doing some impulse online shopping.
Follow Lean It UP on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for real-time fitness/nutrition tips, advice, info and updates.


References, Notes, Links

  1. Pierre Chandon, Brain Wansink. Journal of Consumer Research. The Biasing Health Halos of Fast-Food Restaurant Health Claims: Lower Calorie Estimates and Higher Side-Dish Consumption Intentions []
  2. WebMD  FDA Issues Warning to 17 Food Companies: Stop False Claims []