Decoding Commonly Used Food Label Terms

Is it just me, or is grocery shopping becoming more of a difficult task than ever before? There seems to be so many technical terms and jargon slapped on the labels of practically every food product available for purchase that it can be difficult to determine what exactly you're putting into your shopping cart, let alone your body.

Over the past few decades, terms such as "organic," "free range," "low fat," and many others have taken over the labels of foods throughout the grocery store, but do you know what these labels are really saying about the food? Though some of these labels can be easily understood, there are many instances where these labels can be misleading and even outright lying to us.

Multiple Types of Organic

You've probably seen organic labeled as one of three ways: Organic, USDA organic, and 100 percent organic. What's the difference? A food labeled as "organic" only needs to have 95% organic ingredients, but a "100 percent organic" food must have 100 percent fully organic ingredients. Meanwhile, a "USDA organic" label requires food products that live up to strict standards and regulations. These are foods free from substances such as pesticides and GMOs. 

Whole Grain vs. Multigrain 

Grains are an important staple to any diet, but only if they haven't been stripped of all their nutritional value first. Whole grain foods use the entire grain, making them higher in fiber, protein, and mineral content. Multigrain foods only promise to use more than one type of grain, but these grains are not necessarily whole. 

Free Range, Grass Fed, Grass Finished

Free range refers mainly to poultry products, while grass fed or grass finished foods tend to refer to meat products. A free range product is an animal that had access to the outdoors; unfortunately, even small fenced-in pens outside an aviary can count as being "free range." Grass fed animals tend to be raised in pastures where they have room to graze on grass, but they can still be fed grains and cereal crops on occasion to fatten them up prematurely. A grass finished animal, meanwhile, is one that subsisted entirely on grass and natural plants from birth to death. 

Image used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of torbakhopper