So you’ve decided to make a change in the way your family eats and eat more natural food…..GREAT!! That’s an important change to make for your health and can really change the way you look and feel. But….certain health claims on food are not always what that appear to be. How can this happen, you ask? Well….the Food and Drug Administration does not have a definition of natural and there are many ways that companies can get around certain labeling requirements. That’s kind of a problem, don’t you think?
Let’s take a look at some common labels that may lead you to believe this food is a healthy choice:
- All natural. While the FDA does have some general guidelines of what is NOT natural (like all color additives), that allows a wide range of interpretation for everything else. And with consumers demanding all natural products, food manufacturers are eager to keep their customers happy, even if it means misleading them a little bit. Take high fructose corn syrup, for example. Would you consider this a natural ingredient? Many foods containing HFCS have been labeled as all natural based on the argument that corn is natural and high fructose corn syrup is derived from corn. Therefore, based on that argument, HFCS is good for you. I think there have been enough studies that prove that high fructose corn syrup is not good for anyone to consume.
- Zero trans fat. Trans fats are bad for the heart. They have absolutely no benefit at all and many food companies tout products with zero trans fat. But that isn’t necessarily the case. As long as a product contains less than 0.5 grams, it can be labeled trans fat free. Eating two servings of a supposedly trans fat free food can lead to a significant amount of fat. To ensure you aren’t consuming hidden trans fats, read the ingredient list and avoid products with words like hydrogenated oils.
- Free range. Have you seen some of the documentaries about the way chickens are raised? Many of us are appalled that chickens are kept in dark, cramped quarters all the time and never given the opportunity to roam free. So we think we are doing something good by purchasing free range eggs and meat. But there are no regulations concerning the quality or duration of outdoor access they are required to have to be labeled free range. They just have to have some access to the outdoors but it may not be the happy farm life that you may have pictured in your head. The bottom line is that free range may be little, if at all, better than non-free range.
- Made with real fruit. This label may lead you to believe that this product is a good source of fruit. In actuality though, it may only have a negligible amount of fruit in it. There are no regulations about disclosing how much fruit is truly in that product. In this case, it’s a good idea to read the ingredients so you know exactly what it contains. If fruit isn’t one of the first few ingredients, it’s not a significant source of fruit. Choosing an actual piece of fruit is always going to be the better alternative.
- Serving size. Since most people that read labels are concerned about fat, calories, sugar or some other content, manufacturers attempt to make nutrition information as appealing as possible. But noting the actual serving size is important. You know that tiny pint of ice cream that you can eat in one sitting? It’s actually 4 servings! Yikes!
For more information on reading nutrition labels, check out this article.
Do any of these surprise you? Have you seen any other misleading labels?