Niacinamide, sorbitan monosterat, distilled monoglycerides, palm oil – do you know what any of these are?

These are just five out of 36 ingredients Special K has packed into a “Chocolatey Peanut Butter” bar.

We ingest these chemicals (and many like them) constantly with the packaged foods we eat, such as the granola bars and snack packs we purchase.

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While it may seem eating a breakfast bar marketed as “healthy” or “natural” is a better alternative to eating a bag of chips—there’s a strong chance the consumer has been purposefully misguided. We’ve seen the Special K commercials—it’s “The snack that loves you back.”

Well, this “snack” is packed with ingredients that are scientifically guaranteed not to love you back.

This “healthy” bar has fructose, six kinds of partially hydrogenated oils, and corn syrup.

Fructose, or the more recognizably known “high fructose corn syrup,” is a manufactured sugar found in many soft drinks and sugary snacks.

Fructose has been linked to weight gain, dental cavities, and increased triglyceride levels, which can boost the risk of a heart attack.

Partially hydrogenated oil is essentially another term for trans fat, which is added to manufactured foods to extend shelf life.

Trans fats are linked to high cholesterol. These are just a few examples of common ingredients added to many processed foods students grab.

Did you assume because you were eating a granola bar you were making a healthy choice?

Tiffany Mathews, wellness coordinator at KSC, suggested in addition to hydrogenated fats and oils, students should avoid palm oils and shortenings.

She also mentioned to keep the ingredients list small.

“It does depend on the food, but there shouldn’t be so many ingredients in that one item,” Mathews said.

KSC English lecturer and self-professed lover of food, Jeff Friedman, said he pays close attention to ingredient lists.

“There are certain things I’m looking for,” Friedman explained.

“First, too much fructose. And I bypass anything with trans fat. You just have to check.”

Friedman explained when he purchases items like bread or granola bars, he’s often surprised at how extensive ingredients lists are.

“I kind of feel like they’ve got so much stuff in some things,” he said.

“When there’s a long list on an item such as bread, which has like, three ingredients, I’m like, ‘What is all this stuff?’”

Friedman raised a good point–the length of the list is crucial in the deciphering process.

For example, we compared the Special K bar listed above to a Nature Valley “Oats n’ Honey” granola bar.

The Special K bar contains 36 ingredients—we didn’t know more than half of them!

The Nature Valley Bar contains 11 ingredients—the first being whole grain oats.

Mathews explained the first ingredient in the list is always the most prevalent.

She also pointed out to be aware of the serving size of any food item consumed.

Marjorie Droppa, professor of health science, agreed with Mathews and warned students to be cautious of serving size.

She focused specifically on drinks and stated people often forget what they drink contains calories and a whole list of ingredients.

Droppa explained, “One gram of alcohol contains approximately seven calories.”

She continued, “It’s surprising because people think of calories as being in food, but it’s in everything.”

Droppa also commented on a food item served in the dining commons at KSC that disguises itself as a healthy option when she referenced canned fruits.

While the canned pears, peaches, and pineapple are sweet and juicy, the fruit is sitting in sugary syrup that only adds unneeded calories.

So next time you want fruit, go for the real stuff.

KSC junior Deena Snoke said she pays close attention to the ingredients list before purchasing food at the grocery store.

“I don’t buy anything with corn syrup and I do look at the fat content,” she said.

In relation to Snoke’s decision making, Droppa commented, “Compare products and decide for yourself what’s healthier. Figure out an eating plan and know what you’re eating.”

KSC sophomore Rory Hayford said he decided to stay away from several specific ingredients in all that he consumes.

“I do tend to look at ingredients list and I try to be aware of mass production,” Hayford said.

But for some, like KSC junior Melanie Berry, the figuring has proved too much of a hassle.

Berry said she used to pay attention to ingredients lists but no longer looks into what she consumes.

“I don’t have time for that!” Berry said.

“I get what’s convenient—I don’t look at the list because there are lots of ingredients I don’t want to know about!”

But if knowledge is power, we say why not take a second to take control of what you consume and how your body feels.

Mathews said, “What you eat affects you in many ways – mentally, emotionally, and physically.”

Keep calm and carry on, Keene State.


Julie Conlon can be contacted at


Kim Borkowski can be contacted at



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