11 April 2013 What’s Hidden on Nutrition Labels?

Nutrition labels are great for better understanding the foods we eat. However, it’s not all “cut and dry” when it comes to food advertising. Food manufacturers have done ample research into what catches a consumer’s eye when trying to make healthy food buying choices. How many times have you read a package and it sounds too good to be true, or worse, sounds great but makes no sense? For instance, gimmicks like “Made with 100% Real Ingredients,” or “Naturally Flavored,” or even “Fat Free” when it’s on something that is naturally fat-free (like orange juice). All these “tricks” make foods sound better than they may actually be.

This is why we must educate ourselves to make the right decisions and carefully read nutrition labels. In short, we must not judge food by its covering. Here’s a few of the worst offenders to mindful of when shopping at the grocery store.

“Extra Light Olive Oil” does not mean “light” in the sense of less fat, calories or sodium. “Light” refers to the color of the olive oil, not its content.

“Real fruit juice” doesn’t mean the drink is 100 percent fruit juice. In fact, with statements like this there is no law that requires manufacturers to use a minimum amount of real fruit or fruit juice to make this claim. In an extreme case, even one drop of real orange juice in a drink would satisfy this statement. The best way to know is to read the label to see the drink is high in high fructose corn syrup. If so, then it’s like there’s little fruit juice there too.

“Natural” has no specific definition. This word is not regulated by the FDA and in no way pertains to the nutritional content, ingredients or health effects of a food. For reference, even high fructose corn syrup is considered “natural,” even though it is a chemical byproduct.

“Vegetarian,” “Vegan,” and “Dairy-Free” only pertain to what’s not in the food — mostly the absence of meat or animal byproducts. However, these foods can still be high in sodium, sugar, or calories, so check the nutrition facts first.

One of the hardest to discern may be “Multi-grain” versus “Whole grain.” Multi-grain foods are actually whole grains mixed with an enriched grain, so it’s better for something to be a whole grain alone rather than a multi-grain. When a manufacturer says something like “9 grain” or “wheat,” it can sound healthier than it is, because unless the label says specifically, “Whole grain” or “whole wheat,” it’s not. Even on the ingredients list, make sure that the word “whole” appears. Often with multi-grains, one will see “whole wheat flour” as a first ingredient, then “enriched...” something as the second. This is not the healthiest option.

Pay attention when you shop for healthy foods. The best way to do this is to simply give yourself enough time at the grocer to do this, especially when you’re out to shop for foods you may not have had before.

Ryan Newhouse

Ryan Newhouse is the Marketing Director for MyNetDiary and writes for a variety of publications. He wants you to check out MyNetDiary on Instagram!

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Nutrients/Food label

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