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Five misleading food labels

2 August 2009 927 views No Comment

This week we have explored the numerous and often-misleading food labeling terms shoppers must decipher at the supermarket. One point about these terms is clear: unless the USDA or FDA have made issued firm policies on the legal use of certain terms, their meanings are far from certain.

 

To wrap up this series, a list of the top 5 misleading food label terms is provided below. Savvy shoppers should check the ingredients list and nutrition label on food products sporting these terms on their packaging!

1. Free-Range. The guidelines for using this term are vague requiring simply that the animal is allowed access to the outdoors, but does not include requirements for feed or exposure to chemicals. As a result, there is not way to be sure these products are any healthier than non-free-range foods.
2. All-natural. All natural foods must contain no artificial colors or ingredients and must be “minimally processed.” The latter requirement for minimal processing is often loosely interpreted by manufacturers, meaning this label guarantees no health impact for the consumer. As a dietitian once said: “Uranium is all-natural, but you wouldn’t want to eat it, would you?”
3. Made with (whole grains, real cheese, real fruit, etc.). This popular food label simply means that the ingredient is somewhere in the food product, but tells the consumer nothing about how many servings are in the product. However, many consumers believe they are buying a healthier product when they see this label. Consider this: Why by something “made with” whole grains, real cheese or real fruit, when you can simply buy 100% whole grain products, actual cheese and actual fruit?
4. Low-Carb or Carb-Concious. While reducing the overall servings of simple carbohydrates in your diet may provide some health benefits, this label provides no information about other potentially unhealthy ingredients such as saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Indeed, pork rinds are often labeled “low-carb” but contain 2 grams of saturated fat for about 9 pieces. Look for wholly healthy treats instead – low calorie, low saturated fat, high protein and fiber options are best!
5. Light/Low-Calorie/Low-Fat/Fat-Free/Sugar-Free. Health advocates may question the inclusion of these labels in my list at first look. Certainly these foods are often preferrable to their full-fat, higher-calorie counterparts, but unfortunately, most consumers never check the full nutritional information on the package or acknowledge the serving size. Remember, the best way to identify a healthy food item is to inspect its nutritional information label. The FDA provides some great resources for understanding nutrition labels.

With a greater understanding of food labels, head to the supermarket and buy some healthy ingredients for the Curried Chicken and Vegetables Recipe!

                                                                                                                 By:Sarah CoxGo

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