UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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Have you ever picked one grocery item over another because of the health claims on the label? You may have been fooled into thinking food is healthier than it is. Misleading labels are often slapped on a food item that may not be as nutritious as the packaging would have you believe. Below are several misleading phrases stamped on your food and how to make smarter eating choices.
When shopping for healthy bread and crackers, look for the words whole grain or 100% whole wheat. Foods marked ‘multigrain or ‘made with whole grain’ may have been refined, a process that strips away the healthiest portions of the grain. And don’t go by color alone: Some darker bread or crackers have caramel coloring and are no healthier than highly refined white bread.
The term ‘all natural’ doesn’t mean all that much. The term is not defined by The Food and Drug Administration, and food makers won’t get in trouble for using it as long as the food doesn’t contain added colors, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. A food labeled natural may contain preservatives, may have high fructose corn syrup or may be injected with sodium. Your food may not be so natural after all.
No Sugar Added
If you are watching your sugar intake, you may find yourself tossing food marked ‘no sugar added’ into your grocery cart. Although these products may not have added sugar, they still may contain natural sugars. And no sugar added foods may still contain added ingredients like maltodextrin, a carbohydrate, which can still raise blood sugar. No-sugar-added does not mean a product is a calorie or carbohydrate-free or even sugar-free.
Sugar-free doesn’t mean a product has fewer calories than the regular version. In fact, it may even have more. Sugar-free products have less than 0.5 grams of sugars per serving, but they still contain calories and carbohydrates from other sources. These products often contain sugar alcohols, calories which can often make you sick in large doses. Be sure to read the packaging of the sugar-free vs. the regular version to see which is indeed better for you.
A food label may say a product, such as olive oil, is light, but manufacturers have been known to use the term to refer to the flavor rather than the ingredients. The flavor might be lighter, but you aren’t saving one calorie. The wording on light products can be confusing for consumers, but it is important to read the nutritional facts. To be considered a light product, the fat content has to be 50% less than the amount found in comparable products.
With consumers becoming more aware of saturated and trans fats, the market has become flooded with fat-free products. The problem with this is that they sometimes contain nearly as many calories as their versions that contain fat. Check the label for calorie content, and compare it to the full-fat version.
If you are paying attention to labels while shopping, chances are you care about your health and are a mindful eater. The next step in this good habit is to avoid being duped by misleading labels and continue to improve upon your inclination to eat healthily. Making the right eating choices can help you live longer and improve your term life insurance rates.