You read all about nutrition labels and how to choose the healthier options. Now you are ready to shop smart! You make your way down the aisle of the grocery store and instantly an overwhelming feeling starts to set in. The endless options for one particular item is asinine. Naturally you pick up an item that will catch your attention first. This is how the power of marketing works. Labels that claim "low fat", "low calorie" know their consumer is looking for the healthier options to food, so they will highlight the benefits of their product. But what they fail to mention are the not so healthy facts. They know the majority of shoppers don't take the time to turn their product around to read the nutrition label. If you are truly invested in shopping smart, take the time to read the back of the label and COMPARE to other options. This at first may be time consuming, but once you get a better understanding of what foods to stick to and which ones to keep on the shelf, it gets easier!
Here are some terms to watch out for:
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 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.
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.
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.
The product was stripped of it's nutrients as a result of processing and manufacturing and then added back in after. Items that have been enriched are highly processed and (sometimes) less nutritious than whole, less processed foods.
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.