You try to make the right choices to keep you and your family healthy.
- You choose organic, whenever possible.
- You avoid the sugary cereal and junk food aisles.
- You carefully read food labels.
But the truth is food labels often lie. Or at the very least they stretch the truth.
Remember, what’s written on the front of a food package was penned by a marketer. It was carefully crafted to get you to put that package in your cart.
Figuring out the truth behind those food label claims can be tough.
But I’ve got a few tricks you can use to uncover the real story, so you can fill your cart with the truly healthy food choices you want to make.
Beware of these top 3 Food Label Fake Outs
They say the best defense is a food offense. Well, if that’s the case there’s no better time than right now to prepare for your next shopping trip.
By the time you’re done reading this short article you’ll know how to avoid becoming the next victim of the three most common food label fake outs.
Food Label Fake Out #1: “Made with Whole Grains!”
You know whole grains are good for you.
You’re already aware that they could help slash your risk of deadly diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
That’s why you seek them out in the grocery store. And that’s why this food label fake out is so effective.
We’ve trained ourselves to reach for whole grain products, and food manufactures know it. That’s why they plaster the phrase “Made with Whole Grains!” in big bold letters on the front of their packaging.
But the trouble is whole grains are often far from the only thing in the package. Added sugars and refined flours could be hiding in there too.
Fake Out Fix:
When you see this phrase flip the package over and take a close look at the ingredients list.
If you see any of the following six ingredients listed, put it back on the shelf and move on:
- Oat flour
- Enriched wheat flour
- Durum wheat
What you’re looking for is actual whole grains. You can usually spot them by looking for any of the following ingredients…
- Whole or rolled oats
- Stone-ground whole wheat
- Whole grain brown rice
And to be sure you’re really getting the good stuff be on the lookout for the 100% whole grain stamp.
Food Label Fake Out #2: “Only 100 calories per serving!”
We’ve all been trained to look for calorie counts on food labels.
Food manufactures use this habit to their advantage to pull off Food Label Fake Out #2.
Technically they’re telling the truth. If your idea of a serving size is an amount fit for a mouse.
But no one really eats just an ounce of cereal, 9 potato chips or drinks one quarter of a single serve juice.
And don’t even get me started on salad dressings. A serving size according to the bottle is about enough to cover a single leaf of lettuce.
It’s far too easy to eat double or even triple the manufacturer’s serving size without even knowing it. And that can add up to a ton of extra “invisible” calories.
Fake Out Fix:
Carefully read the labels and visualize an actual serving size BEFORE you buy. If it is a ridiculously small amount do the math to see what the real calorie hit would be.
Don’t forget to also take a look at the labels on your favorite “go to” products too. Start dishing out an actual serving size so you don’t end up taking in a bunch of those invisible calories I warned you about earlier.
And as far as salad dressings go, stop buying the store brands and make your own instead. A delicious mix of good-for-you olive oil and vinegar will deliver a nice dose of healthy fat, and you can use more.
Food Label Fake Out #3: “Cholesterol Free!”
This one might take the cake for the top Food Label Fake Out.
Walk down almost any aisle in the grocery store and you will see a “Cholesterol Free!” label plastered all over products from marshmallow chicks to pretzel chips.
Sure, the labels speak the truth.
But that’s because cholesterol can ONLY be found in animal products such as eggs, dairy and meat. In other words, saying a bag of Starburst is cholesterol free is like declaring water is wet. It’s stating the obvious.
Fake Out Fix:
While it’s true that high cholesterol is a factor in cardiovascular disease, only about one in three of us is actually vulnerable to the cholesterol in foods anyway.
Take a look at the nutrition info on the back label of any foods you buy and aim for 300 mg total of cholesterol (or less) in your daily diet.
But what we actually need to be concerned about the most are saturated and trans fats which can drive up cholesterol levels. Both fats can, and very often do, show up in cholesterol free foods.
Try to keep saturated fats down to less than 10% (the lower the better) of your total daily calories.
And remember, if a food is wearing a screaming “Cholesterol Free!” label chances are it’s hiding something else and you’re better off leaving it on the shelf.
Don’t fall for food label marketing lies
Keep in mind that anything written on the front of a food package, or delivered in a big font (especially if it includes an exclamation point), is just marketing copy designed to distract you and make you buy.
To avoid the food label fake out always flip the package over and pay close attention to the ingredients and serving size. This will give you a far better idea of what you’re actually purchasing, and a much better chance of taking home the healthy foods you actually intended to buy.
As a practicing physician, “Dr. Steve” has cared for general surgery and general medicine patients. In addition to his work as a medical doctor, he worked for the U.S. Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment and at the U.S. Congress, performing research on health care, medical technology and drug-related issues.
Dr. Steve received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his master’s degree in manufacturing engineering from UCLA. So you could say he is a doctor with an engineering mind.
Dr. Steve is focused on creating evidence-based nutritional supplements that actually do what they claim. The problem currently on the top of his mind is figuring out the right combination of natural supplements, optimal diet and behavioral changes that will help people get a handle on their weight and health issues.
He is the proud father of 4 children all under the age of 10, and is active in the New York City community. He loves Frank Sinatra, and if you get him in a really good mood, he just might sing you a tune.
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