How Food Labels Are Misleading

July 14, 2014

How Food Labels are MisleadingIf you’ve ever selected a food based on a stamp of good health???multigrain, natural, organic???you may have been fooled by the food label. The good news is you’re looking to make healthy choices, which is a step in the right direction. The bad news is food labels can be misleading. Learn how to make the healthiest choices by avoiding common food label traps.

Whole Grains

“Made with whole grains” is a vague term because the Food and Drug Administration does not indicate what percentage of whole grains a food needs to make this claim. Often times, the first ingredient is refined flour or white flour, meaning there is only a small amount of whole grains in the product. To get my stamp of approval, the first ingredient should be whole wheat or whole grain, indicating the majority of the product was made from healthy ingredients.


“All natural” is one of the most misleading food labels because it’s the least regulated. If the food doesn’t contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances, it can be labeled “natural.” These guidelines mean many processed foods can still carry the label. Products with added sugar, genetically modified crops, and crops grown with pesticides may still be considered “all natural.”


Foods with an USDA certified organic seal must meet standards regarding the amount of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics are used in growing agricultural products like fruits, vegetables, meats, and diary. All products must be grown, harvested, and produced according to these standards. Organic foods tend to be fresher, higher quality, and taste better, but organic is not synonymous with healthy. An organic cookie and a regular cookie will have the same amount of calories. The best organic foods tend to be the ones without the label: fresh??fruits??and??vegetables. Stock up on the organic versions of these and eat plenty of them. A diet high in fruits and vegetables??is associated with a lower body weight.


Sugar-free means the product has less than 0.5 grams of refined sugar. However, the product may still include sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners that won’t do your health any good. ??These sugar substitutes still contain carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain. Compare the sugar-free label to the product that contains sugar. If the carbohydrates are the same in both, the sugar-free label won’t significantly help you shed pounds.


Like the sugar-free label, a fat-free label must contain less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving. However, when you remove fat from foods, it is often replaced with sugar to compensate for loss of flavor. Peanut butter is an excellent example. Peanut butter is high in healthy, unsaturated fat, which can keep your heart healthy. You don’t benefit from these healthy fats if they are removed. Moreover, these healthy fats are replaced with sugar, which has no nutritional benefit. When reading a food label, you want to limit saturated fat, not unsaturated fat.

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