Last month, the New York Times Magazine featured an article by Michael Moss called “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.”

The article explores the creation, science, and marketing of junk food in various case studies. While the article dives into typical junk foods like Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper and Lunchables, I found the following excerpt to be the most eye-opening:

“Many of the Prego sauces — whether cheesy, chunky or light — have one feature in common: The largest ingredient, after tomatoes, is sugar. A mere half-cup of Prego Traditional, for instance, has the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar, as much as two-plus Oreo cookies. It also delivers one-third of the sodium recommended for a majority of American adults for an entire day.”

Why is this so worrisome? Because, we know that foods like Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper and Lunchables are not healthy foods. We know that we should reduce our intake of junk foods. However, tomato sauce? Is that a publicized health concern? Do we see movies like “Super Size Me” and “Food Inc” showing the health concerns of tomato sauce?

No. If anything, Prego Tomato Sauce is positioned as a healthy food. A food full of vegetables and nutrition. Marketed as “Healthy and Delicious” and “100% Natural,” without the education, how can consumers know and understand the sugar and sodium content? This is the type of “junk food” that is the scariest because it is masked as a healthy choice.

As consumers, we need to get smarter about the foods we consume especially when those foods are being consumed by our families. Making food from scratch using natural and local ingredients is the best way to optimize the nutritional value of the food you feed your families and to avoid “sneaky sugars” like those in Prego Tomato Sauce.

However, in this fast-paced world, homemade isn’t always an option. Here is a great link to educate yourselves and your families on how to read, understand, and make healthy decisions based on food labels!