Inspiring Others By Example

“Healthy” Keywords Which Are Used to Fool Us

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.

Natural

All Natural Flavor Gummies

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

Fresh

This term only has meaning if it’s referring to meat products. Meat which has never been at a temperature below 26ยฐF 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

Organic Packaging "Healthy" Keywords

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 itโ€™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

Hidden Sugar Ingredients Healthy Keywords

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
  • Molasses
  • Golden syrup
  • Cane sugar extract
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Agave
  • Malt extract
  • Glucose/fructose

Sugar-Free

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

Whole Wheat Grains Ingredients "Healthy" Keywords

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.

In Conclusion

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!

That’s it for now everyone. If you’ve found some value in this post, please share it to inspire others too! Also, subscribe for more at the top of my site’s sidebar. Thanks!

-Ang

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This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission with no additional cost to you. Thanks!

References:

https://www.rd.com/list/food-labels-decode-tricky-terms/

https://keeperofthehome.org/deceptive-food-tricks/

https://www.meghantelpner.com/blog/food-packaging-tricks-that-fool-us/

https://foodwatch.com.au/blog/carbs-sugars-and-fibres/item/48-shades-of-hidden-sugars.html

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means

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20 Comments

  1. ashleyleia

    “Natural” is a major pet peeve of mine, whether it’s referring to food or weird “health” practices.

    I think it’s also rather silly when brands slap a gluten-free label onto foods that would never include gluten anyway just for the trendy factor.

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    • Ang

      I know! I see bags of potato chips that say gluten-free on them and wonder how potato chips could ever have gluten in the first place.

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  2. Shelly DS

    This is brilliant! I remember way back when I started my healthy eating journey (that has somehow gone out the window) I was shocked to find that lots of things were unhealthy. The sugar one is the scariest!

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    • Ang

      It’s so underhanded how labels are made to make us think something is healthy when it’s just junk food ๐Ÿ˜‘

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  3. Julia

    WOW! Ang I think you out did yourself on this one! Such an abundance of leg work you have done and shed a light on the phoney words to make us think we’re buying something healthy! Thank you for taking the time to post this. God Bless you.
    Julia

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    • Ang

      Thanks Julia. This post did take a bit more time. It’s nice to see someone appreciate it ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Anonymous

    Thank you Ang, What useful tips, scary what one can actually put in ones mouth without being aware. Will definately take more care in the future. Enjoyed your blog.
    Thanks
    Wendy

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    • Ang

      Thank you Wendy, I’m glad you liked it!

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  5. A Big Girl in a Big City

    It’s a great article, the food industry knows how to manipulate people’s minds. One another good example is products labelled gluten-free. I am myself gluten-free so I always look for the ingredients and 2 things make me laugh: 1. sometimes it says “gluten-free” when it’s obvious it is (like rice for example) but they just label it to make the product more appealing and trendy to buy. 2. gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy. If you eat a gluten-free muffin, it’s still not going to be very healthy for you (but some people would eat more of them because they are without gluten). It’s good that you’re highlighting some of their dangerous keywords!

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    • Ang

      I see that all the time. Heck, if veggies had labels they’d probably put gluten-free on those too. Somehow we’ve got it twisted where we immediately connect these words with health. I’m glad to be able to shed some light on the truth.

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  6. strawberryandcream

    Such a great list, super helpful and informative! Also I learned that the word โ€œcrispyโ€ at restaurants usually means fried.

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    • Ang

      Thanks! Haha fried is seen as “unhealthy” so they thought of a word to replace it without lying.

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  7. Jenny in Neverland

    Really interesting post. I fully believe in everything in moderation but some brands really can trick you into thinking something is healthy when it’s possibly packed with sugar. The sugar content of some products is definitely something I’ve been more wary of lately.

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    • Ang

      It is! I enjoy in moderation too. I think that’s why I’m still following a healthy diet and not back to eating poorly ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. nirajshah2003

    I have felt in the trap of some of the keywords, especially the suger-free one. This was a really interesting read!!

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    • Ang

      They can be very sneaky. Thanks!

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  9. Brittany P

    I can’t believe you found organic key lime pie granola bars, weird! I actually bought my family organic fruit snacks recently, but I cringe over buying such sugary stuff at all. I know junk food shouldn’t necessarily be a coping mechanism, but sometimes the foster kid just needs to eat something familiar, you know?

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    • Ang

      I live in Canada, so maybe we get unusual products here. ๐Ÿ˜ I don’t mind buying myself junk food, but how they are marketed as healthy to people I think is totally wrong.

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      • Brittany P

        You’re right, some of the healthy-looking protein bars I buy are just loaded with sugar, they sneak way too much in there

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