Nutritious-sounding buzzwords can sometimes fool us into paying way more for otherwise unhealthy products. You may want to think twice before trusting these five food labels.
It’s one of the most common food marketing terms, but experts say don’t be quick to assume something labeled “natural” is really good for you. “There is no formal definition for the use of the term 'natural' issued by the FDA for food packaging,” says registered dietitian Danielle Schupp. “The FDA assumes and leaves the responsibility up to the food manufacturer to self-police the use of the word natural.”
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Even when the “natural” label is FDA approved, check the nutritional facts to decide for yourself. For instance, an “all-natural” ice cream is still loaded with calories and saturated fat.
Don’t fall for foods that simply claim “organic” on the package. The fine print may actually reveal very few organic ingredients inside. Instead, look for the USDA organic seal, which means the product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients.
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We know a diet high in fiber is key for good health, but if you think you’re eating smart because that bread or cereal says, “made with whole grain,” not so fast. “There is no regulatory definition for the use of 'whole grains' on food packaging, so essentially a food manufacturer can include as little as one leaf of wheat in the product and claim that it’s high in fiber and made with whole grains,” says Schupp.
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To get the healthiest bang for your buck, buy products that list “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain.” Skip foods with “enriched wheat flour,” since that means the nutrients were stripped during processing and added back in.
"O Grams Trans Fat"
Another label to look out for is “0 grams trans fat.” The FDA allows packages to display this if the product has less than a half a gram of trans fat per serving. But let’s be honest, we usually eat way more than the recommended serving size, so this label’s not exactly realistic.
While it may seem like a no-brainer to choose foods fortified with vitamins and minerals, you could be paying a premium without getting much in return, as the FDA does not require a specified amount or percentage.
“Products can be fortified with different vitamins, minerals, Omega-3 oils, and the key when you’re looking at the ingredient list [is that] if these food items are listed toward the end of the list, there’s a tiny minuscule amount in [the product] that may not even be nutritionally significant,” says Schupp.
What are some other food labels to ignore? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #FinFit.