So, this cereal is organic – that means it’s low in calories doesn’t it? And this label says that this soup is low in fat, so it must be good for me, right? ……Wrong!
Food companies know that health - or at least the appearance of health - sells. As we explained in our article, Healthy Food Labels To Avoid, according to the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) 2012 Food & Health Survey, the healthiness of foods and drinks influences 61% of buying decisions. But in reality, food labels are just another form of advertising, and are often used to purposely mislead customers into thinking something is healthy when it’s actually far from it. Studies show that key words like ‘organic’ can make consumers believe food is also low in calories or ‘high in protein’ is perceived as beneficial to their health, even though the food may be highly processed, and full of empty calories. Even when these labels are factually correct, people over-infer the healthiness of the food, and that can lead to over-consumption. But don’t worry, you'll never read a food label or nutrition facts label the same way after you learn these seven misleading food label pitfalls to avoid.
1. Be Wary Of Nutrient Callouts
That banner of nutrition information emblazoned on the front of various products, such as cereals, granola bars and pasta is called Facts Up Front and is a creation of the food industry. As well as numbers for saturated fat, sodium, sugar and calories, these products push their content in certain nutrients. For example, Lucky Charms cereal can advertise its calcium and vitamin D levels, even though a serving has 10 grams of sugar and marshmallows are the second ingredient listed. Nutrient content callouts such as ‘low fat’ or ‘cholesterol free’ sometimes appear on unhealthy foods; yes, Jujubes are a fat-free food, but they also have 18 grams of sugar per serving.
2. Read The Fine Print
In a 2010 report, Food Labeling Chaos, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that many ingredient lists are intentionally unclear, purposely using small condensed print or various colored-inks on poorly-contrasting colored backgrounds. Many unhealthy products such as candy bars were also found to ‘hide’ their nutrition facts under a fold where it could only be found if the customer made a special effort to search for it.
3. Misleading Health Claims
Phrases such as ‘Helps Support Immunity!’ or ‘Helps protect healthy joints!’ which describe how a food component may help the function of the body can be vague or misleading. A 2010 found that nutrition marketing, such as health claims on the front of a box, is commonly used on products high in saturated fat, sodium and/or sugar, and more often in kids’ products. Only trust the nutrition facts panel to determine how healthy a food is.
4. Don’t Believe High-Fiber Fibs
Sixty-six percent of consumers look for the phrase ‘high fiber’, according to Technomic, a food-industry consulting firm. Yet not all fibers are created equally; some products might be “high fiber” because they contain isolated fibers in the form of purified powders, such as maltodextrin, oat fiber, wheat fiber or oat hull fiber. These fibers don’t have the same beneficial health effects as intact fibers from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables so don’t fall for the fakes.
5. Look For Whole Grains
Just because a product says it is ‘Made with whole grains’, doesn’t guarantee the product is made predominantly of whole grains - in fact, only a miniscule amount may be there as there are no minimum guidelines. To be sure, look for whole wheat or whole grain listed first in the ingredient list. Similarly, the Whole Grain Stamp—which appears on products that contain at least 8g whole grains per serving—doesn’t guarantee the healthiest choice. A recent study found that some grain products marked with the stamp are higher in sugar and calories than grain products without the stamp. The best way to identify the healthiest grain product is to look for at least 1 g fiber for every 10 g total carbohydrates.
6. Don’t Judge A Product By Its Name
Product names aren’t covered by FDA labeling regulations so companies get around this by creating wholesome names for their unhealthy foods and drinks. For example, Vitamin Water is basically sugar water (with a whopping 31 grams of sugar per bottle!) with a few added vitamins, so you’re better off drinking plain water and taking Phen Vites. Other products named to evoke healthiness include thinkThin nutrition bars, SmartFood popcorn and Snackwell’s snacks.
7. Smaller Serving Sizes
Tiny serving sizes make unhealthy substances such as saturated fat and sugar look less bad. For example, a 15-ounce can of organic soup labeled as ‘healthy’ contains ‘approximately two’ servings, with each serving containing 480 mg of sodium, conveniently this is the maximum amount of sodium the FDA says that a food can contain in order to be labeled as ‘healthy’. But most people eat the whole can, which totals 960 mg of sodium. Earlier this year a study found that for products containing two servings which are normally consumed in one single occasion, it helped customers make healthier choices when the nutrition label showed two columns – one for the entire package and one for half of the package.
While you’re on your weight loss journey it’s important to consider exactly what’s in the food you buy; simply opting for ‘low fat’ or ‘diet’ versions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making the right choices as this product could be trying to draw attention away from a high sugar content or actually contain unnatural ingredients which may hinder your best weight loss efforts. However, armed with this information you can now be more cautious in future and know that you can’t always judge a box of cereal by its cover or a tin of soup by its serving size. We believe the safest way to ensure you’re eating healthily is to opt for fresh unprocessed products like fruit and vegetables, lean meat, oily fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds – plus, these foods are high in fiber and protein, keeping you full for longer and helping to control your appetite.
If you need extra help with appetite suppression or an energy boost, rather than filling up on supposedly fat-free products or reaching for a diet soda, a weight loss supplement such as Phen Caps is your best choice, ensuring that making genuinely healthy changes to your diet are easier and maintainable in the long term. However, despite aiming to eat a varied diet, many of us are still missing out on nutrients that are essential for good health and to help weight loss, but by adding the only multivitamins designed specifically for weight loss, Phen Vites, to your new healthy routine, you can rest assured that you’re benefitting from all the crucial nutrients you need to lose weight successfully.
Have you spotted any misleading product claims, or have you been tricked into thinking something is healthy when it isn’t? We’d love to hear about your experiences with food labels so please comment below!