Don’t Fall For Clever Marketing on Food Packaging!
September 21, 2017
Shopping for groceries can be extremely confusing especially when you’re trying to make healthier food choices. Every product on the shelf claims to be better than the rest in one way or another.
This is why you need to learn how to separate the facts from clever marketing gimmicks. Here are some guidelines to help you do that.
- Natural or Natural Flavors
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “all natural”? Healthy, right? Sadly, that is not necessarily true.
According to the FDA, the word natural just means that no artificial ingredients have been added. It does not mean hormone free, pesticide free or non-GMO.
Today nearly everything on the shelf, including water, is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, nutrient fortification does not make unhealthy foods healthy.
Fortified junk food is still junk food.
There is also no evidence that the additional nutrients are doing us any good.
If you want more vitamins and minerals in your diet, skip the fortified sugar and eat healthy, nutrient dense foods that have been proven to have beneficial health effects.
This is not to say that you should avoid all fortified foods. If a food has intrinsic nutritional value, the added nutrients will only make it better. For instance, there is nothing wrong with probiotic-fortified yogurt or milk fortified with vitamin D.
- Good Source of Fiber
The healthiest sources of fiber are whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits.
If you’re making healthy food choices, you don’t need the added fiber from packaged bars or cookies. In fact, most of the fiber found in junk food is faux fiber extracted from chicory root or chemically synthesized. There is also no evidence that eating foods with added fiber is as beneficial as eating foods that are naturally high in fiber.
- Whole Grain
The terms “whole grain” and “100 percent whole grain” have very different meanings. A product only has to contain a small amount of whole grains to be labeled “made with whole grains.”
What you really want are the products labeled “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat”. Avoid products that say whole grain but don’t give more information on what the grains are or what percent of the grain is whole; such products may still contain processed flour.
- No Sugar Added
“No sugar added” is not the same as “unsweetened.” “No sugar added” products can still be sweetened with artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which have fewer calories than sugar but are not necessarily healthy.
On the other hand, products labeled “unsweetened” can only contain naturally occurring sugar and sugar alcohols. They cannot be sweetened with artificial sweeteners.
Keep in mind that while these two terms are regulated by the FDA, the FDA does not require manufacturers to use them. Whether you’re trying to avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners or both, you may have to check the ingredient list to figure out what the products contain.
Do yourself a favor and learn what food labels really mean because your health is worth protecting and you deserve the best.