Is it all just corn?

I can not stop thinking about the movie “Food Inc.” and Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivores dilemma.” In particular the imagery that much of what we eat is really just corn. (Great summary article by Pollan if you are interested:

The other day when I was putting my groceries away I realized just how many of them were packaged and had a long list of ingredients. While our family strives to eat better, less processed, more wholesome, home cooked food, we are by no means perfect. I don’t think it is realistic to eat a diet that is 100% organic, local and cooked from scratch when you live in the city. There are times when convenience is, well, convenient. But I believe it is well worth the effort to try and eat better.

In that spirit I thought I would take a look at the food we have in the house right now and see just how much has a ‘corn derived ingredient.’ I will start with the main cupboard and go from there. I may write later blog posts about our fridge, freezer and other cupboard (which is mostly oils, vinegars, spices and baking supplies).

Here goes. First, take a quick look at this list of corn-derived ingredients found on (  This list was written for those with allergies, so some of the ingredients listed my just be contaminated with corn, not actually mostly corn. I do not know if it is complete, but it should give us the basics.

Bottom shelf- Clear! Yeah! Pasta’s, rice and organic mac and cheese in a box (told you we weren’t perfect), all without any corn ingredient that I can detect.

Next shelf: Granola bars- fail! Corn syrup is the second ingredient. It also contains malt extract, tocopherols, monogylerides, fructose and maltodextrin. The brand name starts with ‘nature…’ . Two kinds of crackers and two kinds of cookies (store brand arrow-root and graham) all fail. Each have 2-3 ingredients similar to those in the granola bars. Reminding myself that I love to bake and could easily make our own crackers, granola bars and cookies.

Next shelf: My chicken and veg broth would be clean if it weren’t for citric acid. Citric acid is on the list as one of the ingredients that may be corn contaminated. My canned salmon, chickpeas, pumpkin and tomato paste all pass. My creamed corn doesn’t pass, because it is, well, corn. But that doesn’t count because it didn’t trick me into buying corn I was not aware of. Also, it is great in my chowder recipe which is a cross between a clam and a corn chowder.

Next shelf: Adult cereals all fail. Baby cereal and rice crackers pass. Teething biscuits would have also passed if it weren’t for baking powder. No big surprise there, I expect my cereals to have corn in them for the most part. The ingredients in them that didn’t pass were mostly ‘sugars’ like high-fructose corn syrup or fructose or ‘starches’ like corn starch or corn flour. We do try to avoid high-fructose corn syrup and the like for health reasons, so maybe I need to look for some sugarless cereals. Or go for breakfast alternatives like yogurt (sweetened with honey and fresh fruit), oatmeal or bread (again, would love to start making my own).

Next shelf: Mostly tea, all clean. My organic hot chocolate powder was clean, my Ovaltine was not.

Next shelf: The baby’s shelf. Some of the jarred food has ascorbic acid. One jar of actual corn (again, doesn’t count because I knew it had corn.) Baby cheerio’s (no added salt or sugar) has corn flour.

Side note: in case you are wondering, yes I do want to make our babies food from scratch. But I have been lazy and the store we shop at has a store brand ‘organic’ line which is reasonably priced and that I have told myself is a good compromise until she will eat finger foods I can make myself. Also, every time I make something for her she throws it on the ground, making me feel rejected that she won’t eat something I have so lovingly prepared. Tips anyone?

Next shelf: Random baking stuff. Cake decorations, icing sugar, baking powder, bread crumbs, cornmeal and chocolate chips: all fail. Mostly due to corn starch, corn syrup or maltodextrin.

Main cupboard done. Actually it wasn’t as bad as I thought. A lot of what was corn derived was obvious. I was expecting a whole laundry list of ingridents that I had never heard of and had no idea what they did. The things that did have corn ‘hiding’ in them are things that I have wanted to start baking anyway. I am pleased that I didn’t discover the every thing I had was full of corn. But it also makes for a fairly anti-climatic blog post. Sorry about that.

I should say though, that I am not suggesting that we should all ban corn from our cupboards and gather it up in piles and burn it on the street. I just think we need to be more aware of the ingredients that is in the stuff we buy. I have been aware of the negative impact of ingredients like high fructose corn syrup for quite a while and make a point of not buying juice, for example, with added sugar. We also drink pop only once in a blue moon. That cuts out a lot of the ‘corn derived’ ingredients from our shelves.

One of the things that Pollan suggests in his new book (I haven’t read it yet, but saw an interview about it) is that we shouldn’t eat anything with an ingredient that our Grandma or Great Grandma wouldn’t recognize. A good way to look at it, I think.

I think I will tackle the fridge an other day.


2 responses to “Is it all just corn?

  1. Chelsea January 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

    1) I would love your corn/clam chowder recipe.
    2) You should totally make your own bread! It’s awesome and easy. I have the Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day and it’s awesome. Also: Best pizza dough.
    3) I hate that rejection when Simon won’t eat what I lovingly prepare for him. I had to have Alex feed him most of the time. Have you read Child of Mine? It has some really good tips for feeding children that helps with those feelings. It is so hard not to get emotionally invested in what they eat and do not eat.
    4) Loving your blog!

    • amoment2think January 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm


      Sure, I would be happy to e-mail you my chowder recipe. Except I don’t really cook with a recipe, so it will be more of a guesstimate of what I think I did last time.

      I need to get that Artisan bread book, you are the second person to recommend it in a week.

      Thanks- I will look for that book too.

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