Reading labels can be tricky. The rules governing the labeling of food are complicated, making it difficult for buyers to comprehend them.
People in our society are paying more attention than ever to health, which has caused certain food manufacturers to be dishonest in order to get you to purchase unhealthy, heavily processed items. These strategies are all about assisting you in losing extra pounds, taking proper care of your cardiovascular system, and having a healthy lifestyle.
In this article, you will learn the techniques to recognize genuine healthy foods from those that have been inaccurately labeled as nutritious.
1. Never believe the claims on the front of the box.
Many consider that health claims are simply just advertisements and promotional messages, rather than actual facts. Government sanctioned declarations, such as “low-fat” and “light,” often do not provide the full details. These goods may have a high amount of fat, as well as a notable presence of sugar, salt, and/or calorie content.
An example of this would be “light” ice cream which can contain as much as 4 to 5 grams of fat in every portion. The calorie content of “light” and “regular” varieties of ice cream may not differ much.
Do not judge an item solely based on any one factor such as the fat, cholesterol, sugar, carbohydrate, or salt levels.
Companies are attempting to make a profit by exploiting the newest diet and nutrition trends, focusing their advertising on a single nutritious element despite other parts of their product that are not beneficial for health. You have to be careful with supposedly “fat-free” foods because they may contain a lot of sugar and calories. In order for it to be beneficial for health, a product has to meet certain standards.
A great suggestion might be to totally disregard assertions on the outer wrapping of the product. Front labels attempt to entice shoppers to buy items by boasting about their health benefits.
Studies have demonstrated that labelling health benefits on the front of a product encourages people to perceive it to be better for their health than an identical item without any such statements, and so influences customer decisions.
Manufacturers tend to be deceptive in their use of these labels. They are likely to make assertions about medicinal benefits that are deceptive and, in certain scenarios, totally false.
For example a cereal may be whole-grain, which is good, but still very high in sugar, which is not good. The packaging will proudly display the whole grain aspect hoping you will buy based on the perception it is healthy.
It is difficult for purchasers to pick out nutritional choices without looking at the components list thoroughly. Labels on the front of food products are regularly utilized to attract individuals into purchasing them. However, some of these labels are highly misleading.
2. You should always look at the Nutrition Facts label and look at the list of ingredients.
This info can be very useful in assessing the nutritional value of a food.
Crackers may be advertised on their packaging as having no trans fats, but the ingredient list may still contain other fats that are just as bad for the arteries, such as palm oil.
3. Check the serving size.
The government set certain sizes for portions years ago, however, many items still present portions that are quite tiny in comparison to reality. One portion of oil spray is equal to .25 grams. That is equivalent to 120th of an ounce – much less than the quantity of spray people will typically use when they squirt a single shot on a pan.
Nutrition labels reveal the calorie and nutrient count of the average recommended portion of the product. However, the amounts usually eaten in one go are usually larger than the recommended portion sizes.
As an illustration, you could have one serving that could include half a can of pop, a fourth of a cookie, half a candy bar, or a lone biscuit. By doing this, producers attempt to mislead customers into believing that the food has less calories and sugar.
A lot of people are not aware of the designated portion sizes, thinking that the packaging is equivalent to one serving, when in reality it may contain multiple servings.
If you’re curious regarding the nutritional content of what you’re consuming, you’ll have to calculate the amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates, and other elements by multiplying the suggested serving size stated on the package by the number of servings you had.
The portion sizes shown on product labels may be deceptive and unrealistic. Manufacturers frequently cite an amount far less than what a majority of people typically take in at one time.
5. Check the calories per serving.
Many people mistakenly believe that the amount of calories listed on a 20-ounce bottle of cola is the exact number of calories they are consuming. Hardly. You must multiply 110 calories by 2.5 servings to recognize that you are actually consuming an astounding 275 calories.
Don’t get too comfortable with “0”s either. Due to some producers employing abnormally limited serving sizes (like that 120th of an ounce of cooking oil?) and the FDA’s allowance for the “round down” to 0 approach, some food items which are publicized as having no calories or fat could in fact contain at least some amounts.
If you consume more than one portion- for example, if you cover an entire skillet in cooking spray- you might be taking in a big number of calories.
6. Check the calories from fat.
It’s on the Nutrition Facts label. Sadly, the label does not disclose the proportion of calories that originate from fat, which is what all health rules recommend that we restrict.
You’ve got to do a little math. Calculate the proportion of calories from fat out of the total calories. If the serving size is 150 calories, and 50 of those calories are from fat, the product contains 33% of its energy from fat.
Beware of statements like “99% fat-free” soup or “2% fat” milk. They are determined by the amount of weight, not the amount of calories.
That canned soup that claims to be 99% fat-free could actually end up having 77% of its calories derived from fat, or more. 2% fat milk contains 34% of its total calories from fat, while 1% milk contains 23% of its calories from fat. Check the sodium.
Ignore the percentage of sodium according to the Daily Value. Examine the quantity of milligrams of sodium that is in the portion. It is a good idea to restrict the sodium content in milligrams to the same amount of calories present in each serving. Your daily goal: less than 1,500mg of sodium.
8. Check the types of fat.
Verify that the ingredient list does not contain any types of fatty acids that are saturated, hydrogenated, or derived from tropical sources such as lard, butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm oil, shortening, margarine, chocolate, or whole/part-skim dairy products. They’re all damaging to your arteries and heart.
Polyunsaturated fats (e.g., safflower, soybean, corn, and sesame) and monounsaturated fats (olive and canola, for instance) are not as harmful, so they can be eaten as long as the fat calories are kept below 20% of total calories or you could gain weight. All oils, even “good” oils, are dense with calories.
9. Check the sugar.
Limit caloric sweeteners. Be cautious of sweeteners that appear to be non-sugar but are, in reality, caloric sweeteners. These include corn syrup, rice syrup, maple syrup, molasses, honey, malted barley, barley malt, and anything that terminates in “ol”, for example sorbitol or maltitol, or “ose” i.e. dextrose or fructose.
You should try to make sure that no more than 5% of the calories that you consume in a day come from refined, added, or concentrated sugars. This is equivalent to around 2 tablespoons of these types of sugars per day for the majority of people.
Don’t worry about the sugar that exists in some fruit and nonfat dairy products. All sugars, whether added or naturally present, are given the same designation of “sugar” on the Nutrition Facts label.
Your best bet: Look at the ingredient list. Stay away from foods that have concentrated, processed sugar as one of the initial three to five components. The healthier the food item is, the more likely you will find added sugars farther down the list on the label.
10. Ensure the grain is unprocessed.
Many products that imply they are made with whole wheat bread or pasta may list wheat flour as the first ingredient on the label. Even though this might seem healthy, in actuality it is just refined flour.
Further on the list is whole wheat flour or bran. Scout out products that contain only whole grains. Search for items that contain a minimum of 3 grams of fiber per serving, which generally signifies that the item is mostly or completely comprised of whole grain.
It is likely that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. Every year, thousands of fresh items are released, a lot of which attempt to benefit from the newest fad diet. Many may not be carefully regulated (if at all).
Recently, the Florida FDA conducted an analysis of 67 diet products and discovered that none of them matched the labeling. Specifically, several of the products had more sugar than what was reported.
Recently, tests conducted by consumer laboratories on 30 low-carb snack bars showed that 60% of them were mislabeled. The majority of the food items contained higher levels of carbohydrates, sugar, and sodium than what was stated on the labeling.
READ MORE: FDA New “Healthy Food” Label Guidelines
The Most Misleading Claims
Labels on packaged food are created in order to get your interest and to make you believe that the item is good for you. Here are some of the most common claims — and what they mean:
- Light. Light products are processed to reduce either calories or fat. Some products are simply watered down. Check carefully to see if anything has been added instead — like sugar.
- Multigrain. This sounds very healthy but only means that a product contains more than one type of grain. These are most likely refined grains — unless the product is marked as whole grain.
- Natural. This does not necessarily mean that the product resembles anything natural. It simply indicates that at one point the manufacturer worked with a natural source like apples or rice.
- Organic. This label says very little about whether a product is healthy. For example, organic sugar is still sugar.
- No added sugar. Some products are naturally high in sugar. The fact that they don’t have added sugar doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Unhealthy sugar substitutes may also have been added.
- Low-calorie. Low-calorie products have to have one-third fewer calories than the brand’s original product. Yet, one brand’s low-calorie version may have similar calories as another brand’s original.
- Low-fat. This label usually means that the fat has been reduced at the cost of adding more sugar. Be very careful and read the ingredients list.
- Low-carb. Recently, low-carb diets have been linked to improved health. Still, processed foods that are labeled low-carb are usually still processed junk foods, similar to processed low-fat foods.
- Made with whole grains. The product may contain very little whole grains. Check the ingredients list — if whole grains aren’t in the first three ingredients, the amount is negligible.
- Fortified or enriched. This means that some nutrients have been added to the product. For example, vitamin D is often added to milk. Yet, just because something is fortified doesn’t make it healthy.
- Gluten-free. Gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy. The product simply doesn’t contain wheat, spelt, rye, or barley. Many gluten-free foods are highly processed and loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar.
- Fruit-flavored. Many processed foods have a name that refers to a natural flavor, such as strawberry yogurt. However, the product may not contain any fruit — only chemicals designed to taste like fruit.
- Zero trans fat. This phrase means “less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.” Thus, if serving sizes are misleadingly small, the product may still contain trans fat.
The most effective method to prevent from being tricked by product labels is to refrain from consuming processed foods. After all, whole food doesn’t need an ingredients list. If you ultimately purchase pre-made meals, be sure to differentiate the unhealthy options from the top-notch products using the advice provided in this article.