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25 Foods You Should Never Buy at Kroger

Sugar- and gluten-free options aren't always better.

In 1883, Barney Kroger took his entire life savings and opened his first grocery store. He was just 23 years old, but Mr. Kroger already had a credo in mind for running his business, and it would help grow the Kroger Co. into one of our nation's largest retailers and most popular supermarket chains.

"Never sell anything you would not want yourself" were words Mr. Kroger lived by, and the motto served him well over the years. Today, Kroger supermarkets are known, among other things, for their plentiful and affordable selection of organic foods and an impressive array of private label products that help Kroger deliver what its customers want without name premiums.

But hey, nobody's perfect, and even Kroger can't get it right 100% of the time. Apparently, that's what happened in the case of these 25 foods you should never buy at Kroger.

And for more, here's What Happens to Your Body When You Drink a Smoothie Every Day.

Kroger Complete Buttermilk Pancake Mix

box of kroger pancake mix

Per 1 cup: 240 calories, 3.5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 640 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 5 g protein

Although pancakes aren't the first thing you think of as healthy food, it is possible to whip up a batch that offers enough nutritional benefits to justify the generous helping of carbs, fat, and sodium. For example, this recipe for buttermilk pancakes delivers 14 grams of protein. Kroger's pancake mix delivers a mere five.

Of course, with Kroger's mix, all you have to do is add water, but honestly, measuring a few ingredients and cracking a couple of eggs isn't really the challenge of making flapjacks. The challenge is in getting them to cook up evenly. But if you're set on making pancakes from a mix, consider one of these 9 Best Pancake Mixes That Are Worth Buying.

Kroger Original Pancake Syrup

bottle of kroger maple syrup

Per 1 cup: 100 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (0 g fiber, 16 g sugar), 0 g protein

Kroger suggests topping its pancakes with its Original Pancake Syrup. But we say you'd be wise to skip both. The classic topping for pancakes is maple syrup, and Kroger's syrup is nothing more than corn syrup (high fructose corn syrup, to be exact) and water. Don't cheat yourself out of the lovely depth of pure maple syrup; we love This Delicious Maple Syrup from Trader Joe's That Only Has Two Ingredients.

Kroger Sugar-Free Pancake Syrup

bottle of kroger sugar free pancake syrup

Per 1 cup: 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 90 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 4 g sugar alcohol), 0 g protein

Does the fact that Kroger's sugar-free pancake syrup has only 10 calories make it healthier than the original? Nope. In fact, the sugar-free version is arguably a worse choice because it contains sorbitol, which can cause unpleasant intestinal distress, namely bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

And if you're whipping up a batch of flapjacks (with real maple syrup!), be sure to avoid these 13 Common Pancake Mistakes.

Kroger Peaches and Cream Flavored Instant Oatmeal Packets

box of kroger peaches and cream instant oatmeal

Per 1 cup: 140 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (2 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 3 g protein

Oatmeal can be a nutritional superhero, but not all oatmeal gets to wear the cape. You can learn how different types of oatmeal rank in terms of healthiness here, but spoiler alert: Kroger's Peaches and Cream Flavored Instant Oatmeal isn't going to cut it.

First, it's made with instant rolled oats, which are nutritionally undistinguished (as compared to say, steel-cut oats). Then, it just keeps getting worse by heaping on sugar and sodium. Adding insult to injury, the "peaches and cream" flavor has nothing to do with peaches or cream. Instead, you'll find dried apple bits and milk derivatives with names like "sodium caseinate." No, thank you!

Kroger Brown Gravy Mix

box of kroger brown gravy mix

Per 1 cup: 20 calories, 0 g fat, 310 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), <1 g protein

Gravy, as we understand it, starts with meat drippings and stock and gets its body from butter and flour. Kroger's Brown Gravy Mix starts with modified corn starch and maltodextrin, a highly-processed form of starch. So, where's the beef? Oh, it's there: second to last on the list of ingredients, right after salt. Now, we're not saying you should never make your gravy from a mix. It's entirely possible to find reasonably healthy store-bought gravies and even gravy mixes. It's just that this gravy mix is not one we would recommend.

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Kroger Chicken-Flavored Stuffing Mix

kroger chicken flavored stuffing mix

Per 1 cup: 180 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

Kroger's Chicken-Flavored Stuffing Mix packs in a whopping one-third of your recommended daily sodium allowance and gives some of it to you in the form of monosodium glutamate, which some people are sensitive to. Wouldn't it be better to just make your stuffing yourself?

We're not saying you need to crumble your own bread; in fact, we might even argue that breadcrumbs make a better stuffing. But why not start with breadcrumbs that have recognizable ingredients and add fresh herbs, instead of whatever it is that this mix refers to as "spices"?

Kroger Strawberry Flavored Water

bottles of kroger strawberry water

Per 1 cup: 0 calories, 0 g fat, 45 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein

Water is one of the best things you can put in your body (and here's what happens when you do). But this drink appears to be water in name only. Sure, there's water in the Kroger Strawberry Flavored Water. And sure, it hydrates. But it also contains sodium, and do you really need sodium in your water?

Know what else it contains? Sucralose, one of the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas. What it does not seem to contain is anything remotely resembling a strawberry. If you find plain ole water boring, then you'd be better off with one of these 6 Best Sparkling Waters.

Kroger Guacamole Seasoning Mix

kroger guacamole seasoning mix

Per 1 serving: 5 calories, 9 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 80 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein

Wait. What's this? Five-calorie guacamole? Uh, no. Before you can have guacamole, you need to mash up some avocados. And that's what you'd have to do with or without this mix. So what does this mix add? Maltodextrin, tapioca starch, dried sour cream, peppers, and parsley, none of which are actually meant to be in guacamole.

If you're in the mood for guacamole, simply mash up an avocado, toss in some lime juice and sea salt, and enjoy. If you want to get creative, here are 20 guacamole recipes that push guac's boundaries, but in a healthy, delicious way.

Kroger 49% Less Sodium Cream of Mushroom Soup

can of kroger cream of mushroom soup

Per 1 cup: 160 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 990 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 3 g protein

What might not be immediately apparent about this 49% Less Sodium Cream of Mushroom Soup is that one bowl still contains almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium, which is around two-thirds of what the American Heart Association recommends you consume in a full day. What it's "49% less than" is Kroger's regular condensed cream of mushroom soup, which, to its credit, does not purport to be a healthy version of anything.

If you're in the mood for a creamy canned soup from Kroger, then we suggest opting for the cream of celery soup instead—it contains just over 600 milligrams of sodium, making it a better option.

Kroger 3-Minute Microwave Pepperoni Pizza

kroger microwave pepperoni pizza box

Per 1 pizza (204 g): 540 calories, 25 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 1,110 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 17 g protein

Food that's "fast" isn't automatically "bad." But this 3-Minute Microwave Pepperoni Pizza is actually the worst. Almost half of its calories come from fat, and it has twice as much sodium in a single serving as what you'd get from a bowl of Kroger's cream of celery soup. Sure, it's ready in three minutes, but three minutes isn't enough time to read the seemingly endless list of ingredients printed on the box, and once you do, we expect you'll be wanting those three minutes back.

Kroger Macaroni & Cheese

kroger refrigerated mac and cheese

Per 1 cup: 350 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 850 mg sodium, 42 g carbs (1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 17 g protein

Let us first take a moment to remind ourselves that not all mac and cheese is bad for you. When made correctly, macaroni and cheese can be perfectly righteous comfort food. And while this one seems to get off to a good start, being made with real cheese rather than powdered cheese or "cheese in a squeeze tube," Kroger's macaroni and cheese is also filled with saturated fat (36% of your daily recommended allowance) and sodium (nearly two-thirds of your daily recommended allowance). And, inexplicably, it also contains eight grams of sugar. We might understand if this were a slice of cake. But mac and cheese? We've seen it done with a mere three grams of sugar.

Simple Truth Organic Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Baking Mix

box of kroger simple truth gluten free yellow cake mix

Per 1/4 cup dry mix: 160 calories, 0 g fat, 10 mg sodium, 39 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 24 g sugar), 0 g protein

We love Kroger's Simple Truth brand. It's all about plant-based eating. It means well, and often, it gets things right. But not this time. This cake mix has more sugar than the original Kroger yellow cake mix—if you aren't following a gluten-free diet, don't assume the GF option is automatically healthier.

Simple Truth Yogurt-Covered Raisins

bag of kroger yogurt covered raisins

Per 1 cup: 130 calories, 5 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (0 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 0 g protein

We're impressed that the "yogurt" here actually contains "cultured" something or other. Unfortunately, that something is "cultured whey," which is best known for its role in developing Swiss cheese and has nothing whatsoever to do with the making of yogurt. As such, these Simple Truth sweets are not actually yogurt-covered raisins, but rather tiny little sugar bombs. We're not saying you should never indulge. We're just saying that you should understand what you're indulging in.

Kroger Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

bottle of kroger lite raspberry vinaigrette dressing

Per 1 cup: 60 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (0 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 0 g protein

How does Kroger make a raspberry vinaigrette with 75% less fat and 58% fewer calories than "other" vinaigrette dressings? By substituting high fructose corn syrup for most of the oil. In other words, this isn't so much "raspberry vinaigrette" as it is "raspberry syrup."

You can do much better with any of these 10 healthy salad dressings, or you could do better still by simply shaking up two parts oil to one part vinegar in a covered mason jar, et voila: a classic, delicious vinaigrette sans sugar, which is how it was meant to be.

Kroger Grape Juice from Concentrate

kroger frozen grape juice concentrate

Per 1/4 cup (74 g): 170 calories, 0 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (0 g fiber, 41 g sugar), <1 g protein

What is grape juice if not purple sugar water? There's almost no circumstance that justifies drinking, rather than eating, grapes, but what makes this grape juice even worse is that it's processed twice: first into juice and then into concentrate. We're going to suggest you pass on this one, and while you're at it, please consider passing on these other juices as well.

Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

Private Selection Coconut & Sweet Chili Shrimp Purses

kroger shrimp purses

Per 1 cup: 630 calories, 30 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 1,440 mg sodium, 72 g carbs (4 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 25 g protein

Kroger's Private Selection offers upscale, artisan-inspired foods like these Coconut & Sweet Chili Shrimp Purses. The thing about upscale, artisan-inspired foods is that it doesn't necessarily equate with wholesome, healthy foods you want to use to nurture your body.

While this dish sounds enticing, it manages to rack up an astounding amount of sodium (nearly an entire day's allowance) and saturated fat (more than one-third of an entire day's allowance), not to mention a whopping 630 calories per serving.

Kroger Green Curry Sauce

Per 1/2 cup: 110 calories, 6 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 650 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 2 g protein

If you ever happen to be concerned you're not getting enough sodium or saturated fat in your diet, then you might want to pick up some of this Kroger Green Curry Sauce. If you're like the rest of us and watching your intake, then you're better off satisfying your craving for a curry with this recipe for Thai Chicken Curry.

Kroger Egg Mustard Potato Salad

kroger egg mustard potato salad tub

Per 1 cup: 230 calories, 14 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 510 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 4 g protein

We could forgive an egg-based salad for having a generous helping of fat and sodium, but we would expect it to offer a nice portion of protein in return. This one does not. In fact, its measly four grams of protein is the same as what you'd get in one of Kroger's Ooey Gooey Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls (which we do not recommend, as you'll see later). Here's a recipe for a better egg salad that contains a full 15 grams of protein.

Kroger Corned Beef Hash

can of kroger corned beef hash

Per 1 cup: 400 calories, 25 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 990 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 15 g protein

Let's start with the good news: This corned beef hash is super-convenient and packs a generous serving of beef protein into a reasonable 400 calories. Unfortunately, it also comes with an enormous portion of saturated fat and sodium, and that briny corned-beef flavor comes from sodium nitrite, which is something you'd rather not willingly ingest.

Armour Hot & Spicy Vienna Sausages

can of armour vienna sausages

Per 1 cup: 130 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 760 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 7 g protein

Sodium nitrite also figures into the flavor of Kroger's Hot & Spicy Vienna Sausage, but what really pushes this product over the edge is its 760 milligrams of sodium. That's high even for Vienna sausage, and it's more than twice as high as Libby's Vienna Sausage, to which we gave the thumbs down in this roundup of The Unhealthiest Canned Foods on the Planet.

Kroger Ham & Cheese Deli-Style Sandwich

kroger ham and cheese deli sandwich

Per 1 cup: 450 calories, 14 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 1,850 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 25 g protein

Ham and cheese is one of those timeless sandwiches that holds a special place in our hearts. But that doesn't mean we want to put our hearts at risk when we indulge. This particular sandwich has way too much saturated fat and sodium, and the ham gets its flavor from sodium nitrite. Also, we're just curious: Why is there so much sugar in a savory sandwich?

Kroger Thai Chili Lime Tilapia

kroger thai chili lime tilapia

Per 6 oz.: 190 calories, 3 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 20 g protein

With 190 calories and 20 grams of protein, you might be wondering what's not to like about this Asian-inspired fish dish. But did you notice the fish is tilapia? A few years ago, we were saddened to learn that even though it's "fish," farmed tilapia isn't so good for you after all. Research shows it has more inflammatory potential than doughnuts, burgers, and even bacon.

A far better fish choice is cod, which Kroger does not feature in a sandwich at present, but which is available in lots of other formats, including these beer-battered fillets, which aren't the healthiest choice you could make but are, nevertheless, a safer bet than anything made with tilapia.

Kroger Ooey Gooey Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls

kroger cinnamon rolls

Per 1 roll with icing (58 g): 400 calories, 17 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 770 mg sodium, 59 g carbs (1 g fiber, 30 g sugar), 4 g protein

It's hard enough to imagine a healthy cinnamon roll, but a cinnamon roll billed as "ooey gooey" and "jumbo" doesn't stand a chance. While one of these intoxicatingly scented babies is about half the calories of a regular Cinnabon roll (and as much protein as the mustard egg potato salad mentioned above), it's still loaded with saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. In other words, try your best to resist the temptation.

Kroger Cinnamon Raisin Pre-Sliced Bagels

kroger cinnamon raisin bagels

Per bagel: 240 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 50 g carbs (4 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 8 g protein

Did you think the Kroger cinnamon raisin bagels would be a healthy alternative to the aforementioned cinnamon rolls? When it comes to nutrition, bagels are already at a disadvantage because they're heavy on the carbs and not much else. Adding raisins and cinnamon doesn't help either, and when you compare Kroger's cinnamon raisin bagels with Kroger's plain bagels, it turns out the plain ones are a much better bet, with only half as much sugar and no saturated fat.

Simple Truth Emerge Plant-Based Patties

kroger simple truth plant based patties

Per serving: 230 calories, 14 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 20 g protein

Simple Truth's version of the Impossible Burger isn't significantly worse than any other plant-based burger we've piled high with fixin's and sworn: "tastes just like a real burger." But like those other plant-based burgers, this one gets its impressive taste and texture from around half a day's worth of saturated fat in the form of coconut oil.

While Simple Truth's Emerge Plant-Based Patties are arguably better for you than charbroiled beef, like the Impossible and Beyond burgers that inspired them, they're not exactly "healthy" food. Of course, if you want to enjoy this pea-protein-based patty for its beef-like taste, texture, and protein content, or because it's an environmentally sustainable alternative to beef burgers, that's another story.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a food, health, and culture writer whose work has appeared online and in print for Reader's Digest as well as Health Digest, Huffington Post, Taste of Home, and others. Read more about Lauren