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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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

In defense of my company, our new CEO has made an enthusiastic push for healthier food, more socially conscious policies, and more environmentally friendly methods. I'm sure you have seen the compostable Sun Chips bags. You may have missed the headline about Pepsi voluntarily pulling sugary sodas out of schools. Check out out plain Lays and plain Fritos, they are just plain natural. Corn or potatoes, oil, and salt. They also recently began selling a line of all natural flavored chips in the white bags. You may have seen the Throwback Pepsi and Throwback Mountain Dew, both made with real sugar. These are all steps in the right direction for the world's biggest snack maker. The best way to encourage this effort is to buy!

it's bad for your health only if you eat it everyday, its a snack

No, Shane, the best way to encourage healthy eating is to put all you criminal Big Food companies out of business. 25% soda taxes, banning HFCS, etc.

Hey! Let's be civil.

So "little" food companies get carte blanche, or what? Who says where the line is drawn between big and little? Or do you just have a problem with this specific company, or just whoever is at the very top at the time? Even if you don't want to buy our products, the fact is that millions of people do. If you decide to buy a microbrew root beer, and chips from some small company, the big companies may try to get your business, but the mainstream snack and soda sales will be more likely to change if sales support this direction. Or, I guess if you are charismatic enough, you could convince everyone to boycott this company until we become smaller and the small companies you might romanticize become big companies. Then what? The fact is, millions of people like our products, maybe billions, and if you want to help change the company serving so many, the best way is to buy.

I'm going to play a bit of Devil's advocate here and disagree that Tostitos are not a healthy snack. Yes, a whole bag is unhealthy but indeed they are whole grains, they are also vegetables and they are also fruits! It is all in the *amount* you eat. As I sit and look at a bag of blue corn chips that I'm snacking on, I see that the serving size is 15 chips and that is roughly equivalent to the carbs in one slice of bread. So, eat 45 chips and you've had 3 slices of bread. Yikes! Makes my pancreas hurt thinking about it. THIS is the part that we don't understand as a society, how to get the most bang for the food buck and how to eat in moderation. The food itself is not unhealthy, it is how we eat it!

ugh. HFCS makes me insane. it's in saltines, for the love of god. they should taste way better if that's the case.

anyway ... i read labels all the time, trying to keep it out of my house. heinz has a new commercial about how it uses great tomatoes, but doesn't mention the HFCS. there are items in my grocery store's healthy section with HFCS.

some brands, however, i'm so used to that i don't read the labels anymore. imagine my surprise last week when i happened to read the Ben & Jerry's label ... completely by accident.

yes, they now use HFCS. they didn't three years ago and don't know when they started. i'm mortified - it goes against everything they stood for as an independent company.

but it's a good lesson in remembering to keep reading labels. conglomerates can never be trusted!

So I have been making my own tortillas in the oven with white corn tortillas. Should I be using yellow corn tortillas, are they better?

Yep, you gotta look at the ingredient list.

That's too bad. I don't eat tostitos very often, not a fan of name brands 'cause of the price.

I SO ENJOY the LIME Tostitos!
with Avocado-Tomato Hummus!
Keep on keepin' on!

I actually bought into this the other day...I was craving Nachos. SO I bought a bag. Luckily, my husband and I are going by the serving size and not blindly eating them like normal. I will definitely make sure they aren't a habit.

I'm going to be the voice of decent here and say I DO think tortilla chips are a healthy snack. I buy lower salt ones and eat them with salsa or hummus. It's all about portion control. We could be eating some other horrendous chip, but as far as chips go, tortilla chips are at the very top of my list. High glycemic index doesn't mean you can't it eat- it means don't pig out on it. And you may be picking on Tostitos, but the store brands are usually identical in ingredients. Why are you only picking on the big brand name if it is the snack you have an issue with?

Im sitting here eating the rest of my tostitos t as I read.. not to mock d writer, b/c I had no idea untill one of my class mates says something about the chips.-as b4 I got n d class I knew i was going to eat the rest of my chips as soon I got home! well isn't this summ. plp nowadays don't care about nothing but bad habits and money as long as they getting it. Now reading lets me know I need a new change in my eating habits, but my tostitos are the so dag on good.. I eat 1/3 of the bag by myself when I have time to with my salsa in a day.

If I am going to snack on something like tostitos, I will either opt for a wholegrain snack (surely healthier for you) or just eat a handful of nuts such as walnuts, Brazils or almonds..definitely much better for you!

We get into trouble wanting to aimlessly graze and "snack" all the time. People use food as a pacifier. It makes them feel better and they certainly want to feel they've done something good for themselves by eating healthfully. People can't understand why I don't have "snacks" in my home. I don't buy cookies, chips, crackers, cakes and the like. People want to nibble and not gain weight, get ill or have any other averse effects. Leave it all alone. Make snacks an occasional - very occasional - treat because you can't trust food companies to be truthful.


I always thought these were an excellent chip to have fresh salsa on because regular tater chips were so oily, but now I know, if I want those delicious chips for my copious amounts of fresh/homemade salsa consumption I will need to make my own, from scratch. Holy crap!

who cares as lond as it's good...

This points up how one of the most important skills we can teach our kids is *critical thinking*! They're unlikely to learn it in school, so it's up to us.

the glycemic index is one thing, genetically modified corn and vegetable oils processed with cancer causing hexane are a WHOLE other thing. and a MUCH larger issue for health. it's like a few extra pounds versus, i don't know...tumors?

Tortitas are good as far as the flavor goes but they're too salty and there too thin whenever I put one in dip it brakes their not good for dipping as expressed in commercials

Why is there no mention of GMO corn???

High fructose corn syrup.

Farmers use corn to fatten up their live stock before selling them at market. If it fattens cows and pigs it's gotta fatten us too.

How come the shortage on hint of jalapeno

not only in regular food, but also in your animal food. always avoid dog food or cat food that says "made with corn" will literally make them fat.

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