Six front-of-label claims you can disregard

FRONT OF LABEL CLAIMS ARE MARKETING TOOLS. Food company marketing departments use these claims to convince us to buy things. The FDA has regulations companies have to adhere to, but it’s still important to remember that anything stated on the front of a package is advertising, not nutrition information. Stick to reading ingredients and using commonsense.

1. Sugar-free

If you see “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” on the front of the box, it just means artficial sweeteners are inside. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re doing something good for your body by buying no sugar-added ice cream or sugar-free ice pops. These products include extra added artificial chemical ingredients instead – like: sorbitol (which can have a laxative effect), sucralose, polydextrose, maltodextrin, glycerine, and maltitol (can also have a laxative effect) – just to name a few.

2. Fat-free

In a fat free food product, the food producers have to add other ingredients in order to maintain the taste and consistency of the full fat product, such as added sugars (in some cases artificial sweeteners), gums, thickeners, and emulsifiers.

3. Any calorie claim

From “100-calorie packs” to claims of being a “low calorie food”, it’s important to remember that all calories aren’t created equal. Most of the products wearing calorie claims are snacks and treats. Choose your calories based on quality, not quantity.

4. Any kind of checkmark

You have a brain and it works just fine. Read the ingredients and make your own decision. Checkmarks and pyramids appear most often on foods which marketers need to convince you to buy. Healthy food sells itself. Checkmarks are on boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins, Cocoa Puffs cereal, and many other foods that common sense tells us are not healthy choices.

5. Added [insert nutrient]

If food manufacturers add a nutrient to a food product which doesn’t normally contain it, put the item down and slowly back away. For example, fiber doesn’t belong in jam and calcium doesn’t come from orange juice. Often the added nutrient isn’t the best source of that nutrient and, for absorption by your body, it’s best to get the nutrient from it’s true source.

6. A good source of…

“A good source of” means 10%-19% of the daily recommended value. Again, it’s better to use your brain and read the ingedients yourself. When potato chips can claim they are “a good source of potassium” it’s a sign that food producers are trying to pull one over on us. Sure, potato chips might contain potassium, but are they a good source in the non-FDA definition sense? Uh, no. They’re a fried snack food.

The bottom line: Front of label packaging is merely a marketing tool and we’re all smart enough to see through it. If you’re concerned about calories or fat, stick to the regular foods and eat less of them, less often – especially snack foods and treats. When it comes to health, read ingredient labels and use your common sense.