Food Labels are a Joke
Updated: Apr 16
There is no governing body that regulates the words “natural”, “healthy”, “pure”, “lightly sweetened” or “world famous”….It is kind of like being in Alaska and seeing a pizza place advertise “New York City Pizza”, ya right! Unfortunately nobody is controlling these types of marketing scams. However, the government does regulate the words “organic”, “free-range”, “no antibiotics” etc. (although these claims can be dubious at best). Look for products that have ingredients you can pronounce, no added sugar and very little marketing claims on the package (a package free product would be best, like fruits, veggies, and farmer’s market foods). When buying animal protein I look for the “Animal Welfare Approved” seal or I actually talk to the farmer or go to the farm before I make my purchase.
Animal Welfare Approved (AWA is a non-profit) prohibits feedlots, cages, crates and requires animals be raised outdoors which means healthier and safer foods. This free certification is only given to independent local farmers with sustainable farming methods. That means no factory farms. I believe a healthier, happier animal makes for a better tasting and probably more beneficial product.
The FDA allows products to claim “No trans fat” when it has less than .49 g per serving. The RDA is less than 2 g/day (it should be zero grams a day because there is no discernible reason the human body needs trans fat!). So if you eat 2 servings of “Trans-fat free” product you may be actually getting half of your RDA! If the label says shortening or partially hydrogenated it contains trans fat.
A common product claim, “made with wheat” means very little. It suggests that it was made with wheat (not necessarily whole wheat grains). A “multi grain” product is simply made with more than one grain and that may not even be whole wheat! Why is this bad? When you consume wheat flour or grains without the husk and endosperm (refined wheat) your body metabolizes it just like plain sugar. For your body, there is no difference between eating 4 to 6 tablespoons of white sugar and a plain bagel. Furthermore, since these empty calories are missing most essential nutrients, scientists have discovered, that your body will be stripped mined of its minerals in order to digest these products.. It is best to buy or make food from 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain. People who have diets high in refined carbohydrates tend to have a lower metabolism, higher insulin resistance, more abdominal fat, worse short term memory, more mood swings and increased sugar cravings. If you really don’t care and want to eat refined bread or pasta, look for the brands that have zero added sugar and a respectable amount of fiber (3-6 g/serving). Eating simple carbs with fiber and protein will slow your insulin response. Here are some examples: pasta with vegetables, toast with peanut butter, rice with beans, bread with cheese etc.
Have you ever looked at the serving size of an 8-12 oz bottled drink? It is not uncommon for these drinks to state 2 or 3 servings per container. That way companies can get away with stating a lower calorie amount on the label (albeit per serving). However when you multiply the calories with the servings you may be alarmed that, for example, an 8 oz bottle of the popular POM (pomegranate) juice is considered 2 servings for a total of 320 calories! Food manufacturers are keenly aware of American’s laziness and bet we won’t look at the food label and if we do not bother to multiply once we are there. Studies show few consumers inspect labels; most will look only at the calories and nothing more. Be a smart consumer and read and understand the labels of the food that you buy.