Food labeling regulations are complex, making it harder for consumers to understand them. It seems the Government lags way behind grassroots insights and/or has tried unsuccessfully to challenge the half truths.
Lots to learn, lots to beware.
Grassroots shoppers needs to learn how to differentiate between mislabeled junk and truly healthy foods. One of the best tips may be to completely ignore claims on the front of the packaging. Front labels try to lure you into purchasing products by making health claims or inferences.
Research shows that adding health claims to front labels makes people believe a product is healthier than the same product that doesn't list health claims — thus manipulating consumer choices.
Manufacturers are often dishonest in the way they use these labels. They tend to use health claims that are misleading and in some cases downright "fake news". Think "half truths are mostly lies".
Front labels are often used to lure people into buying products. However, some of these labels are highly misleading. I half expect to see "Gluten Free" on packages for red meat, fish or chicken; LOL.
STUDY the Ingredients List!!!
Product ingredients are listed by quantity — from highest to lowest amount.
The first ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most of.
A safer rule of thumb is to scan the first three ingredients, as they usually make up the largest part of what you're eating.
If the first ingredients include refined grains, a type of sugar, or hydrogenated oils, you can assume that the product is not healthy. Instead choose items that have whole foods listed as the first three ingredients.
My opinion is that an ingredients list that is longer than half a dozen ingredients suggests that the product may be highly processed. The extras are usually about synthetic or processed flavor or preservatives.
Watch out for Serving Sizes
Nutrition labels state how many calories and nutrients are in a standard amount of the product — often a suggested single serving. However, these serving sizes are frequently much smaller than what people consume in one sitting. PLUS we tend to eat more, as they mostly lack live enzymes which helps our body's appestat know when we have had enough so we tend to over-consume them.
One example is a serving may be half a can of soda, a quarter of a cookie, half a chocolate bar, or a single biscuit: ZERO enzymes by the way.
In doing so, manufacturers try to deceive consumers into thinking that the food has fewer calories and less sugar. Give me a break. Who eats one quarter of a cookie? LOL. Not me, ever!
Many people are unaware of this serving size scheme, assuming that the entire container is a single serving, when in truth it may consist of two, three, or more servings. To calculate the hoped for nutritional value of what you're eating, you should multiply the serving given on the back by the number of servings you consumed.
Processed foods rarely satisfy so we eat many more calories and that causes weight gain. ALERT! Especially watch out for calories from fat.
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.
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. A quick read is Grain Damage for deep insights about grains. Think quinoa, the safe and healthy seed that is used like a grain.
This does not necessarily mean that the product resembles anything healthy. Strychnine is natural but very deadly. "Natural" simply indicates that at one point the manufacturer worked with a natural source like apples or rice. Enter the processing dragon.
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. Try stevia in all its forms until you get the taste or no taste that you prefer.
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. 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 probably negligible.
Fortified or enriched.
This means that some nutrients have been added to the product. For example, vitamin D is often added to milk. Just because something is fortified doesn’t make it absorbable or 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. Watch out for food coloring as well as many are carcinogenic.
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.
Different Names for Sugar
Even though a product may be loaded with sugar, it doesn't necessarily appear as one of the first three ingredients.Watch out for the following names of sugar in ingredient lists:
Types of sugar: beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered sugar, cane sugar, caster sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, golden sugar, invert sugar, muscovado sugar, organic raw sugar, raspadura sugar, evaporated cane juice, and confectioner's sugar.
Types of syrup: carob syrup, golden syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, malt syrup, maple syrup, oat syrup, rice bran syrup, and rice syrup.
Other added sugars: barley malt, molasses, cane juice crystals, lactose, corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextran, malt powder, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, disaccharides, maltodextrin, and maltose.
Many more names for sugar exist, but these are the most common. The more you eat a plant based diet the less sugar remains of interest as the natural flavors of the foods make themselves more apparent, more interesting and satisfying. If you see any of these in the top spots on the ingredients lists — or several kinds throughout the list — then the product is high in added sugar.
If you still decide to buy packaged foods, be sure to sort out (a major chore) the junk from the higher-quality products which by the way is almost impossible and why I avoid almost all of them except some taco chips or sesame or garlic flavored non grain crackers that go well with avocado and homemade non-dairy spinach or artichoke dips (plus Kombucha). YES!!
No labels. Sneaky way to add weight to poultry.
Inject sodium water which makes the sodium content invite high blood pressure and more.
Note: A survey from Nielsen found that more than one-third — 39 percent — of Americans say they are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods. I vote for 100%.
Maintain constant vigilance and self discipline or suffer the consequences such as continuing to help support the mostly lifeless processed food industry.