Misleading Words on Food Packaging

What does “all natural”, whole grain, no high fructose corn syrup, sugar free, Organic and superfood all have in common?food-label

Words on food packaging can be misleading and it is all part of the marketing that companies use to get you to buy and consume their product. Most of these terms are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) therefore are not scientifically backed up.

Here are why some common terms are misleading –

All Natural – According to FDA.gov, “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives.” So remember, just because soda or ice cream is all natural, doesn’t mean it’s a product with any nutritional value.  Something to keep in mind.

Whole Grain & Whole Wheat – unless the food product says 100% whole grain or whole wheat, it may only contain trace amounts, not giving you the high nutritional value product you were looking for. Make sure the 100% is the first item listed in the ingredients.

Made With/From – This only focuses on 1 ingredient to deter you from noticing what else is in the product. Made with 100% fruit juice, doesn’t mean extra sugar hasn’t been added.

100 Calorie Packs – by only focusing on the calories, the nutritional value of the prepackaged product gets lost. Cookies and crackers in 100 calories packs are still not your best choice towards overall health. 1 medium banana also has about 100 calories and provides satiety, plus is a good source of potassium, fiber and other nutrients. No marketing necessary.

Superfood – another term with no regulation. There are plenty foods that are nutrient dense with high nutritional value, that are great for you, but eating a variety of food is what’s going to lead to overall wellness.

Organic – Organically grown food is a good option, organic cookies, crackers and snacks are no better than their non-organic counterparts. Organic does not equal healthier. Processed organic foods can still be high in fat, sodium, sugar and other nutrients with no nutritional value.

Gluten Free – For the individuals with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease, continue to eat gluten free. For the rest, eating gluten free foods is not healthier. Just like with organic, gluten free chips, cookies and baked goods are still meant to be consumed in moderation.  Quinoa, lentils, oatmeal, rice, corn, potato, nut flours among other grains are naturally gluten free. Oats are naturally gluten free, but can be cross contaminated in processing.

With terms that can be deceptive, here are terms/authorized health claims that are strictly regulated by the FDA.

Low fat – 3 grams or less per serving

Low calorie – 40 calories or less per serving

Lean – less than 10 grams of fat per serving

Extra lean – less than 5 grams of fat per serving

Low sodium – less than 140 milligrams of salt or less per serving

The goal is to eat nutrient dense real food. Some of the healthiest food choices have no packaging at all. Don’t be fooled into believing the marketing hype.

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