Misleading Claims on Packaged Food
Common Claims and What They Actually Mean
Consumers are more health-conscious than ever, so some food manufacturers use misleading tricks to convince people to buy highly processed and unhealthy products. Health claims on packaged food are designed to catch your attention and convince you that the product is healthy.
Here are some of the most common claims — and what they mean:
Light products are processed to reduce either calories or fat. Some products are simply watered down. Check carefully to see if anything has been added instead — like sugar.
This sounds very healthy but it only means that a product contains more than one type of grain. These are most likely refined grains — unless the product is marked as whole grain.
This does not necessarily mean that the product resembles anything natural. It simply indicates that, at one point, the manufacturer worked with a natural source like apples or rice.
This label says very little about whether a product is healthy. For example, organic sugar is still sugar.
No added sugar
Some products are naturally high in sugar. The fact that they don’t have added sugar doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Unhealthy sugar substitutes may also have been added.
Low-calorie products have to have one-third fewer calories than the brand’s original product. Yet, one brand’s low-calorie version may have similar calories as another brand’s original.
This label usually means that the fat has been reduced at the cost of adding more sugar. Be very careful and read the ingredients list.
Recently, low-carb diets have been linked to improved health. Still, processed foods that are labeled low-carb are usually still processed junk foods, similar to processed low-fat foods.
Made with whole grains
The product may contain very little whole grains. Check the ingredients list — if whole grains aren’t in the first three ingredients, the amount is negligible.
Fortified or enriched
This means that some nutrients have been added to the product. For example, vitamin D is often added to milk. Yet, just because something is fortified doesn’t make it healthy.
Gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy. The product simply doesn’t contain wheat, spelt, rye, or barley. Many gluten-free foods are highly processed and loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar.
Many processed foods have a name that refers to a natural flavor, such as strawberry yogurt. However, the product may not contain any fruit — only chemicals designed to taste like fruit.
Zero trans fat
This phrase means “less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.” Thus, if serving sizes are misleadingly small, the product may still contain trans fat.
Despite these cautionary words, many truly healthy foods are organic, whole grain, or natural. Still, just because a label makes certain claims, doesn’t guarantee that it’s healthy.