Food Labels 101

We’ve all been lured into buying something because of a catchy phrase or health claim on the food item or package. That’s because terms like “fat free” and “all natural” are often put on a food label without being healthy at all!
Below are the most common and most misleading phrases manufacturers use on food, with advice on how to look past the hype to make smarter food choices:1. All Natural– The FDA doesn’t define this so it may contain preservatives or be injected with sodium (in the case of raw chicken). Some companies will add HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) to their food and argue that it comes from corn so it’s healthy (which isn’t the case at all)….umm really?

2. Sugar Free– Sugar-free products have less than 0.5 gms of sugar per serving, but they still contain calories and carbohydrates from other sources. A lot of the time they contain sugar alcohols, which are lower in calories and cause diarrhea if eaten in large quantities. SIGN ME UP.  Who doesn’t love diarrhea?

3. Zero Trans Fat– Products that say “no trans fat” can actually contain less than 0.5 grams per serving. So if you eat 2 servings as most people do, you are actually getting a pretty good amount in your diet.

4. Free Range– Even though a food label might say “free range chicken,” don’t assume your bird was meandering around Old MacDonald’s farm. It just means he has to leave the cage door open for poor Clucky. Chicken nuggets anyone? (I meant to say pink slime nuggets?).

5. Fat Free– Just because it says it’s fat-free, doesn’t mean good things. Food labels could say it’s fat free, but be loaded with sugar, and sugar-free products could be loaded with fat. Sugar makes us fat.

6. Organic– If a product has a green/white USDA label that says organic, 95 percent or more of the ingredients must have been grown or processed without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. A label that says “made with organic ingredients” must have a minimum of 70% all ingredients that are. Make sure your organic produce has a 5 digit PLU # that begins with the number 9. (Conventional produce has a 4 digit PLU # that begins with the number 4 and Genetically modified (GMO) produce has a 5 digit PLU # that begins with the number 8).


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