For decades, marketers have known that product packaging is the most valuable real estate there is when it comes to the snack food aisle. Make no mistake, all of those words jumping out at you have been carefully chosen. Here are 6 ways that those healthy food labels will try to trick you, and what they really mean.
Seeing that a product is made with all-natural ingredients is extremely common on food labels, often paired with images of wholesome foods, leaves, fruits…you get the picture.
In reality, all this means is that no artificial ingredients, preservatives, food colours or flavours have been added to the product.
There are a ton of natural additives that this doesn’t include, like antibiotics, and growth hormones. Most commonly, products that use the phrases ‘all-natural’ or ‘made with all-natural ingredients’ have a ton of ‘natural’ sweeteners added (sugar, fructose corn syrup) or sodium. The key here is that ‘natural’ does not mean that nothing has been added to the product.
Multigrain vs Wholegrain
A product that has multigrain simply means that it uses more than one type of grain, and it says nothing about how much of the product contains grain. What you really want to see is that a product is made with whole grains, the ones that contain nutrients, fibre and other healthy elements. If you buy multigrain, you may not be getting all of these benefits.
If a product claims they are made with wholegrains, it must ensure that one of the first 3 ingredients (indicating that a certain percentage of the product is made of that ingredient) is a whole grain. Flip the package over. If you see the word ‘whole’ in the first three ingredients, then you’ve got a grainy-good product.
No Added Sugar
This doesn’t mean that other sugar substitutes haven’t been added. These types of products can also contain high amounts of naturally occurring sugar.
If a product claims on their packaging that it contains zero trans-fat, this actually means that the product contains less than .5 grams of trans-fat per serving. Why this is tricky is because marketers will play with serving sizes that are unrealistic. For example, if a bag of chips claims zero trans-fat per serving, where the serving is 24 chips (and the bag has about 100 chips), then this claim becomes untrue for the snacker.
Commonly seen on eggs and meat, seeing that a chicken or cow is ‘free range’ helps us to feel good about their living conditions and their diet. In reality, all this means is that the animal had access to the outdoors – it doesn’t speak on the quality of their living conditions, or their diet.
A low-fat food must contain less than 3 grams of fat per 100 gram serving. While a product may be low in fat, it is usually at the cost of adding more sugar, salt or thickeners to boost the flavour as less fat often means less flavour.