Eating well is never easy. You try to make the best choices for you and your family, but every brand you see makes huge claims about how healthy their food is. Everything has the same “healthy” keywords written on the package, and you can’t tell what you should eat or not.
Now, would you believe me if I said businesses are trying to fool customers into buying a product that’s not as perfect as it seems? There are many claims that they can put on labels which are misleading even to the smartest shoppers. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones to look out for.
While there have been suggestions by the FDA, there is still no official definition for what “natural” really means. This gives companies the freedom to use the word however they want. A common consensus is that the term “natural” means that no artificial or synthetic ingredients were used to make the food. Without regulation, this word means absolutely nothing.Poison ivy is all-natural, it doesn't mean I want it in my food. Click To Tweet
This term only has meaning if it’s referring to meat products. Meat which has never been at a temperature below 26°F is considered fresh, only because it hasn’t been frozen. Aside from that, fresh is a keyword thrown in as fluff to make a product look better. Does this mean that the food next to it without the “fresh” label is rotten? Nope. It’s all just a marketing tactic.
Organic is one of those words that people immediately associate with switching to a healthy diet. Though this term is often used to describe fruits and veggies, a lot of junky, processed foods are now adopting the label. While organic is not necessarily a bad thing, there are many misconceptions around the word. The most common belief is that the word organic means that there is no pesticide use. Here is the USDA’s definition of organic:
“Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.“
Organic growing can use pesticides which are not man-made. Here is a full list of approved organic pesticides.
Another rule for organic is that the food only needs to be 70% organic to get the “made with organic ingredients” label. The other 30% of ingredients can be non-organic.
Words Used to Hide Sugar
In an effort to make the ingredients list look healthy for more savvy consumers, manufacturers have found sneaky words to make their product appear to have less sugar.
Another trick is to use many different types of sugar so that the sugars can be shown in smaller quantities and not in the top 3 ingredients.
Commonly used words for sugar:
- Barley malt syrup
- Golden syrup
- Cane sugar extract
- Fruit juice concentrate
- High fructose corn syrup
- Malt extract
Many “sugar-free” products still have small quantities of sugar. As long as a recommended portion size has less than 0.5g of sugar, companies are allowed to use this term.
Fat-free, sugar-free, calorie-free and salt-free products commonly use this trick. Smaller serving sizes make it appear like you’re eating a food less dense in these specific nutrients. Imagine all these terms with low- instead of -free…same concept.
Made with Whole Wheat/Grains
Here’s one that you have to watch out for. A product can be labelled “made with whole grains”, even if the percentage of whole grains is very small. Check to make sure anything that it boasts in its ingredients isn’t halfway down the ingredients list. The farther down the list something is, the less that is actually in the product.
More Than Just “Healthy” Keywords
Even certain colours and types of packaging are used to make us feel like we’re making a healthier purchase. Earthy colours like soft greens and browns can be used to create an illusion of something being natural or sustainable. Paper packaging creates the same effect. Sustainable translates to healthy in our minds, and can fool us into thinking we’re making a better choice for us and our families.
It’s best to be wary of, and to research, anything written on a product. Remember, businesses were made to make money, not look out for their customer’s wellbeing. My advice to you: do your best to make your food from scratch, and find some local farmers to buy from. It takes a bit of extra time, but it’s worth it.
Have you seen some of these “Healthy” keywords on foods which were clearly not healthy? Let me know in the comments!
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