What Everyone Needs to Know About Tostitos

March 30, 2010   43 Comments

Every once in a while, I read an article that encapsulates my grumpiness about food marketing.


This post comes to us from The Vreeland Clinic in socialist (tee hee) Vermont:

I was watching television this morning while I was eating breakfast and saw a commercial that illustrated everything that is wrong right now in America in terms of our health. Here’s how the commercial went:

A man is walking down the aisle in the grocery store and he stops and stares at a shelf full of Tostitos corn chips. He says to himself, “Whole grain? I thought corn was a vegetable?”

This fact, according to the commercial, influences him to buy these chips. The marketing on this commercial is as blatant as can be, but most people do not see it that way. Here is my thought process on this one:

First, the man raises the question of whole grains. Immediately all of our brains shift to healthy thoughts. We’ve been programmed that when we hear whole grains we should think healthy.

While whole grains have their health benefits, excess amounts are not beneficial either, but I am just as guilty as most people when I hear ‘whole grains.’ I too shift to thinking about health, just as the marketers want you to do.

So now they’ve got you thinking Tostitos corn chips are a healthy snack and the commercial has just begun. To hammer home the point they do something unbelievably clever.

The man’s next statement is that he ‘thought’ corn was a vegetable. This is clearly to suggest that no matter how you think about it, whole grain or vegetable, these chips must be healthy! It is quite an amazing job of getting people to think health when thinking about a snack that is actually very bad for your health.

There is a small portion of the population that will see through this marketing and I suspect most of you reading this are those people. However, millions of Americans will see that commercial and assume that corn chips are a healthy snack because, as the commercial suggests, they are made from whole grains – or was it vegetables?

It doesn’t matter which one it is because they’re both healthy, right? And there is the goal of the commercial. The chips are healthy because they’re made with whole grains or vegetables. Period.

So, the next time these people go to buy chips, they won’t get anything else because they are ‘health conscious’ and the commercial said these are a healthy snack. Notice they never actually stated it was a healthy snack.

This would get them into trouble with the FDA for false advertising. All of the ‘health’ talk in the commercial is implied through words like ‘whole grains’ and ‘vegetables.’

As a matter of fact their website talks about these chips and says they have just three simple ingredients – “corn, natural oil and a dash of salt.” What they fail to tell you is that their chips have a very high glycemic index because of the white corn they use.

Consuming lots of white corn tortillas is a great way to give yourself diabetes. But Tostitos doesn’t want you to know that. Just think about the corn chips as a healthy whole grain/vegetable snack. Maybe Tostitos can lobby Congress to get it classified as one serving of vegetables?

I’d be surprised if you could find one responsible doctor or nutritionist that would say white corn chips are a healthy snack. They may be low in saturated fat and contain zero grams of trans fat, all the traditional markings of a healthy snack, but that does not make them healthy.

You must consider the carbohydrate count and the effect it will have on your physiology from a hormonal standpoint. These chips will force your body to produce massive amounts of insulin and, over time, this is extremely dangerous. It leads to diabetes which is a major cause of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases in this country.

If you want a healthy snack, skip the middle aisles in your grocery store. Eat things like nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables and other nutrient dense foods. Tostitos wants you to see their chips as healthy, but they clearly are not. They know this as well.

That’s why you don’t hear them actually use the words ‘healthy snack.’ They are trying to fool the American public to make a little bit more money. If the government wants to reduce health care costs, they should crack down on advertising like this and really educate the public on what a ‘healthy snack’ actually is.

Please share your thoughts about food marketing below.

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 43 )

Food marketing really irks me! It's one of my pet peeves and has really led me to avoid anything manufactured by Big Food. I don't eat many processed foods, but when I do, I usually try to stick to small companies. That means knowing which small companies are independent and which are just owned by Big Food.

This is a great post, and something that needs to be shared. We really do have to THINK about what we're eating!

A few weeks ago I found out that Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches are made with HFCS! I threw them away immediately, and felt betrayed by their makers.

Again, no matter what harm is caused...anything to make a buck!

Great post! You are exactly right!! It's the same story with the 100 calorie packs - people seem to think if it's only 100 calories, it's good for them... AAHHH!!!!

Misleading commercials are indeed a shameful manipulation of public opinion. But so is inflammatory, exaggerated language such as "Consuming lots of white corn tortillas is a great way to give yourself diabetes." and "These chips will force your body to produce massive amounts of insulin and, over time, this is extremely dangerous". Claims such as this make an implicit assumption that your readers are uneducated and easily influenced by irrational, emotional appeals - the exact same logic that you condemn in the Tostitos commercial. Disgraceful.

I am trying to get my family off of processed foods, any book suggestions for my husband to read to get on board with this?

I applaud you for educating people how to see thru the deception of food advertising. These people are very very clever!

My basic rule of thumb is never to eat any food that is advertised - period. It very rare to see one that is truly healthy.

Actually, I buy the Tostito scoops for the family, so they fill up on dip (fresh salsa)and not the chips.

False advertising is everywhere! Even the words "natural" and "botanical" make assumptions as well. WE must educate ourselves as the BIG corporations are just there to make a buck and not concerned about our health. Read labels, both food and product labels!! You truly are what you eat and you should be able to eat what you put on your body without getting sick! That's the rule of thumb we should live by but marketing is so persuasive to the masses. Educating our children is more important than ever now! Need to get back to basics. Thanks!

Damn! Talk about Spin Doctors. It's so weird to see/hear commercials like these with new eyes and ears. In my "before" life, I wouldn't have given it a second thought -- I'd have just bought (and consumed) a bag because it "sounded good." Believe me, "healthy food" was never a consideration for me. Anymore than organic, 0 trans fat, or high protein.

Thanks for highlighting the latest salvo of ridiculous (yet effective) advertising. I hope all of us healthy folks out there continue to make it exponentially more challenging for these crack peddlers to get their BS messages through the filters of the American populace. (Sadly, I know that's not true, but a girl can hope, can't she?)

Lena, I don't know if your husband will like it, but when my husband and I read "Omnivore's Dilemma", by Michael Pollan, it completely changed the way we ate and thought about food.

As a nutrition writer, and as someone just concerned in general about my health and my family's health, this is definitely one of the topics that truly gets my blood boiling. Food manufacturers aren't just making food that makes people sick, they're making food that makes people addicted, and they use VERY powerful marketing tools to keep them that way. Food manufacturers and restaurant chains have gone to great lengths to keep people coming back for more. For example, they "design" meals/food products to have just the right combo of fat, sugar and salt to kick in those brain reward circuits that make their foods practically irresistible to many people. And in my experience as a health and nutrition writer and editor, I think there are still ALOT of smart people who don't know about the serious health effects of these foods, so some people DO need to hear Snack Girl's statment that regularly consuming snacks like the Tostitos Corn Chips are a remedy for diabetes. I have included a link here to the most recent post from my blog for anyone who wants to read more about the food manufacturers' tactics. I recently wrote a major magazine spread about it for First for Women magazine, and you'll find that article here. Since it was relevant, I just wanted to share! I hope that's ok!

You say white corn is a great way to give yourself diabetes. Does that apply to pop corn too? I have a box of "Jolly Time 100 calorie healthy pop butter 94% fat free, Weight Watchers 1 point". I bought it, thinking I could have a nice pop corn snack once in a while. Am I kidding myself?

Myrna - Popcorn is actually a great snack! It is unprocessed and high in fiber and low calorie.

Tostitos does have a multi grain chip and I have eaten alot of them! Are they OK? Thanks Kim

This irritates me the same way that corn syrup commercial irritates me. While I do enjoy corn chips, they're still a treat - not a staple!

I assume the comment that was made about getting Tostitos to lobby congress to get it "classified as one serving of vegetables" was more or less meant "tongue in cheek", but unfortunately it isn't too far off the mark.I'm a school lunch lady-yeah, school food is a WHOLE different topic that I won't delve into here..except to say that, do you know that the USDA- who sets the standards for school meals,(that we MUST follow, unfortunately) classifies processed frozen french fries as a vegetable serving? Pretty sad.

I'm wondering your thoughts on the HFCS commercial. While I see how most people who see that commercial will automatically assume that HFCS is no longer bad to eat and they are wrong in that. Isn't it somewhat true that HFCS isn't bad in the sense that it should be completely avoided? The way I look at it is that neither HFCS or sugar are healthy "staples" but are in fact "treats" and should be monitored the same way. I think the main problem with HFCS is that it normally appears in processed foods with tons of other additives we should be avoiding. Guilty by association, maybe?

Im glad someone brought up the evil genius that is the high fructose corn syrup commercial. The "its nutritionally the same as sugar, and fine in moderation" one. Are they kidding!!! Guess what sugar's not good for you either, and even if its true that corn syrup is okay in moderation ( what's the science behind that anyway?) - you can't have it in moderation, because its in everything. This commercial scares me because it is so convincing, and is actually really good marketing on behalf of whoever made it. I can definitely see it convincing people that HFCS is okay.

Yes, please explain more about the possibility of diabetes and other health problems from eating white corn and tortilla chips. I am guilty of eating way to many with tex mex and mexican restaurants handing them out for free. Where did you learn this information?

thanks for the heads up

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