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What’s on the Box? Decipher Food Label Tease

What does 'sugar free' really mean. (Image: m01229 via flickr/CC BY 2.0)
What does 'sugar free' really mean. (Image: m01229 via flickr/CC BY 2.0)

The marketing machine that’s behind the food industry often leads consumers to be confused or misled by the claims.

Many tease or give consumers a false sense of eating healthy; leading them to eat more processed and packaged foods — which has ultimately lead to the many widespread Western diseases we see today.

Here are just some of what the common food labels mean:

Fortified, enriched, added, extra, and plus

Nutrients such as minerals and fiber have been removed, and then vitamins are added back during processing. Look for 100% whole-grains (really most people do better avoiding wheat and some even gluten), and high-fiber, low-sugar cereals, or even better increasing vegetables.

Fruit drink

Probably little or no real fruit, and a lot of sugar. Look for products that say “100% Fruit Juice,” and consume in moderation. Even better, eat a piece of fruit instead.

Eating fresh fruit is a better option than drinking a store bought juice. (Image: Idearriba via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

Eating fresh fruit is a better option than drinking store bought juice. (Image: Idearriba via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

Made with wheat, rye, or multi-grains

Means it has very little whole grain. Look for the word “whole” before the grain to ensure that you’re getting a 100% whole-grain product.

Natural

Means manufacturer started with a natural source, but once it’s processed the food may not resemble anything natural. Look for “100% All Natural” and “No Preservatives.”

Organically grown, pesticide-free, or no artificial ingredients

Trust only labels that say “Certified Organically Grown” and have a national organic seal.

Sugar-free, reduced fat, or fat-free

Don’t assume the product is low-calorie. The manufacturer compensated the change in texture with unhealthy ingredients that don’t taste very good and some of these products have no fewer calories than the real thing. Also, sugar-free foods are most likely to be sweetened with artificial sweeteners – which are toxic chemicals for your brain.

The term “whole grain” is allowed to be used very loosely

The nutrition value of flour made from whole grain is quite different from when you eat the grain in its entirely — such as when you cook quinoa, brown rice, or millet.

Choose brown rice. (Image: mquadrelli0 via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

Choose brown rice. (Image: mquadrelli0 via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

Zero trans fat

This label is allowed on foods that contain less than 0.5 gram of trans fat per serving. (No amount of trans fat is recommended, and it only takes 2 grams of trans fats to show its harmful effect.)

Here are a few extra things to keep in mind when you look at an ingredient list:

  • Ingredients are listed in order from the greatest amount to the least
  • The fewer the number of ingredients, the better
  • The first or second ingredient should be what the packaging claims the product to be
  • If the first ingredient is “sugar,” put it back!
  • If the first ingredient says “enriched wheat flour”… think twice
  • If there’s a long list of scary-sounding ingredients you can’t pronounce… not a good idea!
  • Say no to artificial sweeteners, colorings, and flavorings – they mess with your brain!

Provided by: Sheridan Genrich, CGP

Sheridan Genrich is a naturopath and nutritionist who received her health science degree from Charles Sturt University, and also received the Dean’s award for academic excellence. Sheridan mainly works with over-stretched professionals, entrepreneurs, and executives who struggle to be in their best health. For more information visit her page, Refresh now.

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