If you’ve got a busy schedule, a tight budget, or you simply enjoy shopping for everything all in the same place, then there’s a good chance you shop at Walmart. The superstore has only grown in popularity, popping up in almost every town across the country because the ease of buying food, clothes, household products, sports equipment, and even building materials, all in the same place is just too good to pass up. Sam Walton launched the superstore that we know and love as Walmart way back in 1962. The store isn’t showing signs of slowing down and the in-house brand, Great Value, continues making strides toward its mission of affordable quality.
Walmart’s store brand is made up of various items that range from food to clothes, and more. But who makes these products and how are they different from other brands? The big surprise is that many of these items are actually manufactured by big name brand companies that you are probably familiar with, but they are simply sold under Walmart’s Great Value label (via NCESC). This marketing strategy helps the store and the brands cut down on costs and sell more products. However, the Great Value label can be distracting. Don’t blindly assume the brand is the healthiest choice, just because it’s familiar. Many popular products are produced by brands such as Kraft and Sara Lee and they don’t always use the healthiest ingredients. Here are the most unhealthy Great Value foods to avoid.
Créme Filled Swiss Rolls
Swiss Rolls have long been a tasty treat that will satisfy your sweet tooth with the perfect combination of chocolate cake and a creamy filling. However, these sugary treats are considered extremely unhealthy, even as a snack that you only indulge in every once in a while. In fact, according to Media Feed, the name brand Swiss Rolls from Little Debbie, which inspired the Great Value version, are downright banned in certain countries and require a bold warning label in others.
Great Value Swiss Rolls contain a hefty dose of added sugar at approximately 19 grams in just one serving size, which is two rolls. According to the Mayo Clinic, added sugars are any type of sweetener, syrup, or sugar alternative that doesn’t naturally occur in food but is added to improve the taste — but not the nutritional value. Too much added sugar can lead to a myriad of health problems, including a higher chance of heart disease, cavities in your teeth, and more. It’s important to remember that certain food companies are sneaky about the way they label their food products. For example, added sugar has many different names, and just because sugar itself is included on the labeled, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other hidden sources of it, such as dextrose, and corn syrup, which are both found in Great Value Swiss Rolls.
Great Value Original Pepperoni has very similar ingredients as other sliced pepperoni brands. There are 5 grams of protein per serving of pepperoni (about 16 slices), and it promises to be a tasty snack that goes great with crackers, on a pizza, or even toasted on a bagel with some cheese. Yet there are hidden dangers in this popular product. According to Food Revolution Network, the pepperoni itself is not where the dangers lie, but in the added ingredients BHA and BHT. These preservatives are frequently found in pantry items and other packaged foods in the United States to make them last longer and stay fresh on store shelves and in your home.
Japan, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and several other countries have actually banned these preservatives from being used in foods. However, they’re still found in many foods in the U.S. BHT and BHA can interfere with your hormones and how they function, potentially making your body more susceptible to cancer and other harmful or deadly diseases (via Verywell Fit). Great Value Original Pepperoni slices do come with a small warning that notes the use of BHT, BHA and citric acid, but it does not explain the effects of prolonged or excessive consumption.
Thin Sliced Hard Salami
Great Value Hard Salami is pepperoni’s cousin and can often taste similar. That means that this deli lunch meat is also not the healthiest option on the shelf. Not only does this product contain the same dangerous preservatives, BHT and BHA, but it also contains extremely high amounts of sodium, with approximately 480 mg in just 1 ounce. This salty snack also contains a label that notifies the buyer of the preservatives, claiming that it merely protects flavor.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, BHT and BHA are considered health and environmental hazards. In scientific studies involving mice, rats, and aquatic organisms, several health problems occurred. Exposure to large amounts of these preservatives negatively impacted function the liver, kidneys, lungs, and more. These chemicals have also been known to cause topical allergic reactions. And BHA specifically has been classified a potential carcinogen to humans by The International Agency for Research on Cancer.
No Calorie Sweetener packets
When it comes to making healthy decisions about your food, don’t be fooled by a product just because it has no calories. This marketing tactic for sugar substitutes or other artificial sweeteners has long been debated because of the ingredient aspartame, which is often found in diet, low-sugar, and sugar-free products and passed off as a healthier alternative, according to U.S. Right to Know. This sweetener, which is often used as a sugar replacement in coffee, tea, and other beverages sounds great on paper. However, the research related to aspartame suggests otherwise. And you should have all the facts before you purchase Great Value No Calorie Sweetener.
Although aspartame has been approved by the FDA, there is extensive research that relates the chemical ingredient to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, dementia, seizures, obesity-related cancers and diseases, migraines, and many other health defects. As recently as 2016, a study found that aspartame consumed by pregnant women can affect the gut health of their offspring. The product has also been linked to glucose intolerance and problems with the way your metabolism functions. Despite being advertised as a healthier sugar alternative, aspartame may actually contribute to an increased appetite. Furthermore, the chemicals that make up aspartame have also been known to transform into formaldehyde during the breakdown process, which is toxic to people and animals (via U.S. Right to Know).
Golden Blue Agave Sweetener
You may know that too much sugar can be addictive and bad for your body (via Healthline). You may also know that high fructose corn syrup is an unhealthy alternative, which means you may be searching for a sweet substitute. Over the years, health-conscious people have been hunting high and low for healthy replacements and many have recently started to turn to agave nectar or sweetener. Considering agave is a natural plant, it may seem like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, sugar alternatives are hardly ever that straightforward. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the problem with agave nectar is that while it is harvested from a natural plant, specifically the starchy root of the plant, it is then processed with lots of chemicals, in a very similar way to high fructose corn syrup, and it ends up with many of the same negative health effects.
High fructose corn syrup has been known to cause obesity and increase inflammation in the body, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, in our mission to find a replacement for high fructose corn syrup, we ended up incorporating something that functions that exact same way into our diets. Once agave nectar is processed it becomes unnatural to us. Our bodies cannot burn it as energy, which means it transforms into fat. In addition, there is also some evidence that agave may be unsafe for pregnant women (via WebMD).
Original Premium Sausage links
According to the label, Great Value Original Premium Sausage Links are yet another Walmart meat product that contains BHA, which is a possible carcinogen (via Science Direct). However, it also includes other artificial ingredients, including Propyl Gallate and Monosodium glutamate, along with unknown "natural flavors," and 480 mg of sodium. This combination creates the perfect unhealthy storm in this Great Value food product.
Monosodium glutamate, according to the Cleveland Clinic, can pop up in food naturally, but when it is labeled, such as it is on the Original Premium Sausage Links, it means it was added by the manufacturer. This additive is more commonly known as MSG in processed foods, and you may have even spotted it in the spice section of the grocery store. However, the additive has been linked to several serious, adverse health problems, such as obesity and insulin resistance. Studies show it can also interfere with your neurons and negatively affect your liver function (via EXCLI Journal).
Propyl Gallate is another preservative that is meant to prolong the shelf life of certain foods, according to Fooducate. This ingredient is commonly found alongside BHT or BHA and is also found in certain cosmetic products. Although extensive research has not been done, there is evidence that Propyl Gallate could cause cancer, and the preservative is banned or restricted in several countries, though it is considered safe by the FDA.
Yellow Decorating Icing
Frosting or icing isn’t likely to be on any list of healthy foods, mainly because of the high amounts of sugar that are present, especially in pre-made frosting such as the Great Value Yellow Decorating Icing. Sugar is the first ingredient listed on the label and each serving size is a minuscule single teaspoon. One teaspoon likely won’t cover a single cupcake, which means the amount of sugar in your finished dessert will be even higher. Yet there are even more concerns when it comes to this icing, and that’s yellow 5, the food dye used that gives the product its bright sunny color. This fun addition to your cupcakes and cookies may seem like a small concession when it comes to a healthy diet, but yellow 5 is high on the list of ingredients to avoid, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
This yellow food coloring is quite literally a dye. It has been linked to certain diseases and can cause serious allergic reactions, according to Verywell Health. Also known as tartrazine, this yellow dye has been banned in Norway and some other countries. And although it’s currently approved by the FDA, scientists are still studying how tartrazine’s impacts on children’s development, behavior disorders, and various forms of cancer. In studies that were conducted on rats, it appeared that tartrazine negatively impacts brain cells and even caused some cells to die.
Hot Cheese Crunch snacks
You may want to reconsider the next time you reach for Great Value Hot Cheese Crunch Snacks, similar to Cheetos or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, whether you’re serving these up on game night for friends and other guests or simply adding them to your lunch box. The crunchy snack chips are not only extremely high in sodium, with 250 mg in each serving, but they’re packed with different food dyes. Red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, and blue 1 are dangerous dyes that do not add nutritional value to products but instead make them appear more appetizing (via Toxicology of Food Dye). The Great Value Hot Cheese Crunch Snacks contain three of these, which puts them high on the unhealthiest foods list.
Aside from yellow 5 and yellow 6, this product also contains the food coloring red 40, which gives your snacks a vibrant, appealing hue, but has also been known to contain small amounts of benzidine. It is important to know that the chemical benzidine has been proven to cause various types of cancer after frequent exposure, so it’s definitely not something you want to be ingesting if you can avoid it. Urinary cancer has been shown to be the most common risk from benzidine exposure, but other forms of cancer, such as stomach, kidney, and liver have also been reported (via Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry).
Magic Treasures cereal
Great Value Magic Treasures Whole Grain Oat Cereal with Marshmallows may seem like a healthier option to simplify your morning meal. However, the food dyes, added sugar, and high amounts of sodium make this a not-so-healthy option for you and your family. Each serving of this cereal contains a whopping 17 grams of added sugar, 280 mg of sodium, and not one, two, or three of the worst food dyes, but all four. Yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40, and blue 1 are used to make the super fun rainbow colored marshmallows, but they are the most commonly known toxic food dyes out there. They were originally made from coal tar, which has since been replaced by petroleum (via International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health). Either way, they are a far cry from natural vegetables and fruits we should be eating in the mornings.
In addition, this breakfast cereal also contains artificial flavors. According to Harvard University, artificial flavors are the catch-all for anything that falls outside of the incredibly broad term natural flavors. Any compound of chemicals that are added to food to make it taste better, smell better, and even look better that does not originally come from nature can be labeled as an artificial flavor, and the ingredients that make it up do not need to be listed on our food labels. That can make it even harder to determine the full extent of the health risks.
Beef Style Ramen Noodles
Ramen noodles are more than just a college favorite, and can be found in pantries, cabinets, and lunch boxes all over the country. This hot, tasty, inexpensive treat is an appealing snack for so many reasons, one being that they’re so easy to make. However, the sad fact is that they’re extremely unhealthy because they contain high sodium levels. Walmart’s Great Value Beef Style Ramen Noodles contain up to 770 mg in just a half a package. If you eat one or two packages of ramen in one meal, this means you could be consuming more than 3,000 mg of sodium in one sitting.
Why is too much sodium bad for you? According to The American Heart Association, the average person should only have approximately 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Too much sodium in your diet can greatly increase the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. High amounts of salt can also put a strain on your kidneys. As a way to compensate, our bodies will retain more water, which makes our hearts work harder (via Harvard University). Ramen noodles have also been known to contain dangerous additives and chemicals, which can interfere with the normal functioning of your body and hormones, according to Food Revolution Network.
Creamy Speculoos Cookie Butter
This creamy spread may seem like a nice alternative to Nutella, but Walmart’s Great Value Creamy Speculoos Cookie Butter is far from a healthy snack. Cookie butter only has a single gram of protein, which means it shouldn’t be compared to peanut butter, which has less added sugar and is a healthy source of nutrients and energy. Adding this spread to fruits, sandwiches, crackers, and more will not give you the added boost of energy that you might receive from a kick of protein, and the 13 grams of added sugar might even lead to the opposite effect.
In addition, Creamy Speculoos Cookie Butter contains unidentified natural flavors. When you see this on the ingredient label, it’s a sure sign that you’re not 100% certain about what you’re eating. The FDA’s labeling regulations do not require food companies to list what’s included in natural flavors as long as some small portion of it came from nature, according to Pure Food Company. But the majority of natural flavors are, in fact, chemicals that have been engineered specifically by scientists to be more addictive, without any particular concerns about how healthy they are.