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TIP OF THE DAY: Read The Label (Really!)

Look closely: sugar is added to plain salsa in
Whole Foods’ store brand. Photo by Elvira
Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


We love nutrition panels on food products. They tell you how good (or bad) for you a particular food may be. If you’re looking to avoid certain ingredients or calorie levels, you get what you need to know. If you want to ingest the amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories laid out for you, you do it with eyes wide open.

Sometimes, though, you skip the reading of panel. A jar of olives, a can of water chestnuts, a container of salsa—you know what’s in the container, right?

Not right!

This week we got taken in by a container of plain salsa from Whole Foods’ new private label line, which beckoned us from a standalone case, along with the company’s private label hummus line.

We rely on salsa as a tangy, low calorie, good-for-you snack and condiment. So we picked up a container, brought it home, popped the top and eagerly inserted a spoon….

What did we get? A mouthful of sugar!


In fruit salsa, one expects some added sugar to enhance the mango, peach or pineapple. But adding sugar to plain salsa not only tastes bizarre—like adding sugar to the olives or the water chestnuts—it is unneeded and unwanted. It’s just wrong.

Salsa didn’t become America’s number condiment, beating out sugar and HFCS†-laden ketchup, by being sweet.

Now, we’re back to reading labels—even on bottled water (we previously purchased what we thought was a bottle of lime-flavored water, to find it was loaded with an unwelcome noncaloric sweetener). With the processed food industry in need of sugaring up every product they sell, we can’t be too safe.

The good news: Whole Foods isn’t adding sugar in their private label hummus (yet). And the hummus flavors, from Greek hummus with the spice blend za’atar* to lemon hummus to tabbouleh hummus and the gamut of established flavors (jalapeño, olive, red pepper, etc.)—are great. The low price ($1.99 per eight-ounce container) is a bonus.


  • The history of salsa
  • The different types of salsa (Salsa Glossary)
  • Salsa trivia quiz
    *Curiouser and curiouser: za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb blend but is not particularly associated with Greek cuisine. It’s a blend of oregano), calamint, thyme and satureja, which can be mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac and salt. Popular Greek herbs and spices include basil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory tarragon and thyme. So, Whole Foods folks, why is this flavor with za’atar called Greek hummus?

    †High fructose corn syrup.


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