Can Nutrition Labels Lie to You? Yes!

The next time you walk down the grocery aisle, take a look at the food packaging around you. You’re likely to spot a lot of buzz words that, at first glance, seem really healthy. Words like “low fat”, “sugar-free”, and “light” float around on your favorite foods. It almost seems as if all the big food companies collectively agreed they should start marketing healthier products! Wonderful!

The problem is, that isn’t what has happened. Big food brands, especially the ones you find in the grocery store, have become sneakier and more clever at convincing you that their products are healthier. They can weasel their way around national food labeling laws. Just about any time a product claims to be “free” of something, it has likely just been replaced with an another ingredient, which may be even worse. I can teach you how to avoid these tricky consumer ploys because, at Meaningfull Foods, we are dedicated to providing you with actual healthy choices.

Sugar-Free

If you take a close look, you’ll notice a lot of the regular desserts and snacks at the grocery store have “sugar-free” on their labels. How can these products taste so sweet without the sugar? The answer is artificial sweeteners. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their daily sugar intake to 25g per day, and men limit their intake to 38g per day. In fact, we’ve talked before about how most people are addicted to sugar!  With that in mind, many companies have lowered the sugar in their products, giving them the opportunity to put “sugar-free” on their packaging. Take a package of Thomas Whole-Wheat English Muffins, for instance: only one gram of sugar in the nutritional info, but take a look at the ingredient list. Near the bottom is Sucralose, an artificial sweetener that adds a sweet taste, but it’s way worse for you than natural sugar!

It’s important to remember that it’s okay to consume sugar, but it should be natural sugar instead of artificial or added sugar. At Meaningfull Foods, we use ingredients that are naturally sweet, like butternut squash, nuts, and tomatoes.

Low-Fat

Seeing “low-fat” on a food package in the grocery store is very similar to “sugar-free”. It means any fat that has been reduced has been replaced with a much worse product to maintain the same flavor. Guess what?

The fat has probably been replaced with sugar! If the fat hasn’t been replaced with sugar, it has likely been replaced with man-made trans fats. They are also called hydrogenated oils. Here’s the other scary fact: the FDA has approved that if a serving has less than .5g of trans fat, it is not required to be listed on the food nutrition label. This means you’re probably eating more trans fats than you thought! The nutritional label on this coffee creamer says it has 0g of trans fat, but, in the ingredients list, hydrogenated oil is the third ingredient, which means it certainly has some trans fats. 

It's okay to eat some fat in your diet, but you should avoid any man-made trans fats or saturated fats. We only use healthy fats that come naturally in our food at Meaningfull Foods. Nuts, hummus, and lean meats are all sources of healthy fats that we use regularly in our menus!

Just because a label says “low-fat” or “sugar free” doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you! It can be difficult to find processed foods in grocery stores that are actually healthy for you, but sometimes it’s more convenient to shop for premade food instead of buying individual, fresh ingredients. That’s why at Meaningfull Foods, we’ve knocked out the hard part for you, and all you have to do is enjoy our ready-made healthy meal choices.