Misleading Food Labels
6 OF THE MOST MISLEADING FOOD LABELS
1. MULTIGRAIN OR 12 GRAINS
What you may think it means: It’s full of healthy whole grains that are good for you. Whole grains have not been stripped of fiber, protein, and nutrients.
What it means: Multi means many types of grains which may or may not be whole. Same with 12, it means 12 types of grains which may or may not be refined.
What to look for: Inspect the ingredient list, all types of grains should have the word “whole” in front of them like whole wheat, whole rye, whole spelt, etc. If it doesn’t say whole, it’s a refined grain, with the exception being brown rice and oats. Brown rice and oats are whole naturally. Also, don’t go by color alone! Some darker breads have caramel coloring and are no healthier than refined white breads.
For Example: The following would be better options.
2. NO ADDED SUGAR
What you think it means: A sugar-free food, healthier for you, or lower in carbs.
What it means: It’s either been packed with artificial sweeteners OR it’s a food that naturally contains enough sugar. A no sugar added product doesn’t mean a product is calorie- or carbohydrate-free.
What you need to look for: Read the ingredient lists, learn the names of artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and just about anything that ends in -tol) and learn the names of sugar. Fruit, milk, cereals, and vegetables naturally contain sugar. Although these products may not have added sugar they still may contain natural sugars.
What you may think it means: It’s healthier option.
What it means: Maybe, or maybe not. If you are choosing between 100% whole wheat bread and a gluten-free bread full of refined gluten-free flours like potato starch and rice flour, then, maybe not. That depends on if you need gluten free.
*Also, it’s possible a product such as dried fruit, nuts, or meat may have never had gluten. Since gluten free is a “buzz” word, manufacturers like to place on labels. Hence, a marketing tool to sell food items.
What you need to look for: Using the tips above look at the ingredient list. Are the gluten-free flours whole grains like brown rice flour, or is it just rice flour? Assess whether the gluten-free claim even matters. Ask yourself, should that product have gluten to begin with?
4. Cage Free
What you may think it means: Hens roaming around at a farm.
What it means: Cage-free often means they are not kept in cages but kept in close quarters on the barn floor.
What you need to look for: My suggestion is to do your research ahead of time if you care about the humane treatment of chickens. There is a very little difference in egg nutrition quality when it comes to how the chicken is housed.
5. Trans Fat Free
What you may think it means: Free trans-fat.
What it means: It might be free of trans- fat.
What you need to look for: If the word partially hydrogenated oil and shortening are in the ingredient list, there are still trace amounts up to a certain level. Peanut butter, shelf-stable snacks, creamers, and margarine are huge culprits.
6. All Natural
What you may think it means: It’s healthy, pure, and good for you.
What it means: Who knows, this claim is not regulated. Some “natural products” will have high fructose corn syrup and companies will argue that since it comes from corn, it’s all natural…hence “healthy.”
What you need to look for: Read your ingredient list.
Bottom line: ALWAYS read your food label & ingredient list.
By: Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN
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