Almost every food label has health claims. From cereals with vitamins to juice with fiber, everything you see is designed to appear “healthy.”
Don’t be fooled by this “healthy hype.” Be an educated consumer, and study the fine print on the package. Here are a few of the most common supermarket scams...
- Superfood juices (or any other juices for that matter)
“Healthy juice” is a favorite marketing scam. When fruit is juiced, fiber and vitamins are lost. So you’re really buying flavored sugar water. A glass of orange juice has about 30 grams of sugar and over 100 calories. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar per day for women and no more than 36 for men.
- Any use of the word, “Natural”
Using “natural” on food labels is nothing more than fancy marketing designed to make you think you’re making smart choices. The FDA doesn’t define the word “natural” or regulate it, so "all natural" can be on any label.
- “No sugar added” or “Sugar free”
Products claiming “sugar free” or “no sugar added” are generally loaded with artificial sweeteners. Apples and bananas may have some sugar, but fiber and nutrients make them a healthier choice than “sugar free” cookies.
- Organic Labels
Organic food is grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Yet, “organic” chips and cookies aren't healthy just because the ingredients are grown a certain way. If buying organic, go for whole foods like proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
- 0 grams Trans fat
Foods can include up to a ½ gram of trans fat per serving and list "zero trans fats” on the label. Eating fish, poultry, and beans guarantees you can avoid trans fats.
- “Reduced fat,” “No fat,” and “Zero fat”
Fat-free products usually leave us hungry and unfulfilled, which can lead to cravings and overeating. Items like nuts, avocados, and salmon have healthy fats that promote cognition, and boost your mood!
Instead of reading the labels on the front of your food, check the ingredients list on the back. The longer the ingredients list, the greater the chance of unhealthy inclusions. Look for products with 5 ingredients or less. 9 times out of 10, they’ll be the smarter choice.
- Farris, A. L. (2010). The Natural Aversion: The FDA’s Reluctance to Define a Leading Food-Industry Marketing Claim, and the Pressing Need for a Workable Rule. Food & Drug LJ, 65, 403. Retrieved from https://nationalaglawcenter.org/publication/farris-the-natural-aversion-the-fdas-reluctance-to-define-a-leading-food-industry-marketing-claim-and-the-pressing-need-for-a-workable-rule-65-food-drug-l-j-403-424/
- Food, U. S., Administration, D., & Others. (2003). Guidance for industry: trans fatty acids in nutrition labeling, nutrient content claims, health claims; Small entity compliance guide. Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/small-entity-compliance-guide-trans-fatty-acids-nutrition-labeling-nutrient-content-claims-and
- Guasch-Ferré, M., & Hu, F. B. (2019). Are Fruit Juices Just as Unhealthy as Sugar-Sweetened Beverages? JAMA Network Open, 2(5), e193109.
- Johnson, R. K., Appel, L. J., Brands, M., Howard, B. V., Lefevre, M., Lustig, R. H., … American Heart Association Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism and the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. (2009). Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 120(11), 1011–1020.doi: doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.3109
- McEvoy, M., Pamela, Kreb, M., Wallace, M., G, P., K, A., … Bj. (2012, March 22). Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means. Retrieved October 26, 2019, from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means.
- Ngandu, T., Lehtisalo, J., Solomon, A., Levälahti, E., Ahtiluoto, S., Antikainen, R., … Kivipelto, M. (2015). A 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 385(9984), 2255–2263. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60461-5
- World Health Organization. (2015). Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=jVk0DgAAQBAJ