This post is by registered dietitian Diane Kress, RD, CDE, author of The Metabolism Miracle.
Food marketers often mislead consumers by using flimsy health and nutrition claims on packages that often serve as a distraction from what’s more important on the Nutrition Facts Panel. This post will highlight some of the most shameful tactics some food brands are using to create a health halo around a product that doesn’t necessarily live up to its bold claims.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular food label frauds:
1. Made With Real Fruit or Made With Whole Grains
There are no regulations regarding the “Made With…. fill in the blank” claims so you need to look at the ingredient list to see if the product really delivers. Many products claim to be made with real fruit or whole grains, when in fact, they may have a lot of added sugars and/or lower quality ingredients. Read the ingredient list. The lower fruit or whole grains are listed on the ingredient list, the less of the ingredient it contains.
2. Lightly Sweetened
Lightly sweetened is another term that food manufacturers use that has no definition by the FDA. Some cereals boasting lightly sweetened on their label contain more added sugar than sugar-coated cereals. Check the Nutrition Facts label and look for cereals that contain 6 grams or less added sugar per serving.
3. Added Fiber
While it’s true that foods marked “added fiber” contain additional fiber (listed as polydextrose, inulin (derived from chicory root), or maltodextrin) it’s not known is these fiber additions have the same health benefits as the fiber found naturally in whole foods. These fiber additives can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach discomfort when taken in excess whereas natural fiber in whole foods does not have this effect. What’s more, they’re generally added to refined or sugar-rich foods to make them appear healthier.
4. Low-Fat or Fat-Free
Marketing a food as “low fat” or “fat-free” can take your attention off the fact that the food is loaded with added sugars or refined carbohydrates. If you are one of the 150 million Americans with the genes for metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, low-fat foods that high in low quality carbs shouldn’t be part of your everyday diet.
5. Low-Carb, Protected Carbs, Net Carbs, Digestible Carbs (Not really!)
One of the most fraudulent areas of food labeling is with low-carbohydrate foods. Products that use terms like “Protected Carbs,” “Net Carbs,” “Available Carbs,” are often bogus so don’t assume that they’re good for you, especially if you have metabolic syndrome or have diabetes. Dietitians do not subtract fiber or sugar alcohols from total carbohydrate content of foods, so you shouldn’t either!