Supermarket Swap – Tortillas

Making healthy choices in the grocery store can seem like a daunting task.  

What do I choose?  Fat-free?  Whole-grain?  Lean?  Popped?  Baked?  
Will this cereal really boost my immunity?  Should I only shop the perimeter of the store?  
When I teach nutrition classes, one of my favorite things to do is to take the clients to the grocery store and compare products side-by-side.  Because I can’t take you all on a grocery store tour, I will be choosing a food item each week and comparing the different options here.  I hope that I can help you cut through the mixed messages you have heard through the years and help you make better decisions at the grocery store.  I will teach you not only to look at the nutrition information label, but to also pay close attention to the ingredient list.  You would be surprised at how many “simple” items have ingredient lists a mile long.  I will call this the Supermarket Swap (no, not Supermarket Sweep).

Our first supermarket swap topic will be tortillas.  Today there are quite a few options other than straight corn or flour.  For example, you could find versions including Carb Balance, Life Balance, Multi-Grain, Homestyle, 96% Fat Free Plus or Garden Spinach Herb.

Some of the ingredients you will find when you turn over the different packages include artificial colors, vegetable shortening, sucralose (artificial sweetener), modified food starch (genetically modified), partially hydrogenated oils (trans-fat) and BHT (a preservative of questionable safety) among many others.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want artificial colors or sweeteners in my tortillas.  What I look for is the shortest ingredient list that doesn’t include lard.  I have found, on the bottom shelf at our regular grocery store, a locally made brand called Alejandro’s.  They make whole wheat, white flour and corn tortillas.

 Ingredient list: whole wheat flour, water, soybean oil, salt, calcium propionate (safe preservative).

If you don’t live in Tucson, look for a local brand in your city.  Be careful because many locally-made tortillas are made with lard or vegetable shortening, so take a good look at the ingredient list.  Avoid brands with hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil or lard.  Please post any healthy tortillas that you find in the comment section for others who may be in your area!

So there you have it, the first supermarket swap.  If you have specific food items that you want me to compare, please leave a comment below or use the contact form.  Happy grocery shopping!

Top photo credit

  • Jake Boen August 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I also love and highly recommend Alejandro's tortillas.

  • Jeff Baj August 25, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I also love and highly recommend…Supermarket Sweep. 😉 Great post!

  • Tracie and Jessica August 25, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I like the tortillas El Trinufo makes…not sure how to say it but the owner used to bring them into the bank where I worked WARM! Oh they are heavenly and they get a load of them 2x a week at Roadrunner Market aka the gas station in Corona! They too are local (obviously) and the ingredients are very similar if not the same as the Alejandro's!

  • Kelly August 25, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I use to watch Supermarket Sweep religiously! Love the idea for your blog posts!
    I'll be checking my tortillas now and might have to find a healthier alternative. Thanks for the info!

  • Kevin, Holly, Kari and Bryce August 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks! This is a great idea and will encourage me to continue reading the labels while I'm shopping. If you're taking requests, I'd love a Supermarket Swap on bread. Whole wheat, whole grain, who's to know the better? I always get so confused walking down the bread aisle.

  • Alysa August 27, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Thank you all for the comments! Bread is definitely on the list for an upcoming post!

  • Stephanie September 5, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Thanks so much for the helpful information. I'll definitely be checking my tortilla labels from here on it. Have you ever tried La Mesa tortillas and, if so, do you recommend them?

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  • Alysa September 7, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Stephanie, I don't think I have ever tried La Mesa tortillas. Where do you buy them?

  • Anonymous November 10, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

  • Melissa K March 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Personally, my fave tortillas are the unbaked ones. The ingredients are flour, oil and salt. Done. Only problem is that they are not whole grain. They also make corn ones, and I buy those too. I am too lazy to make my own tortillas often enough to keep my tortilla-loving clan happy, so this is my compromise!