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Reading List: Food Label Fables

By Sara Butler

When you go shopping for nutritious yet delicious food for your family, you may notice that some food packaging makes some pretty big claims about health. Whole grains, once established as a must-have by the food pyramid, are popping up on packaging everywhere. You probably also notice other foods claiming to be free from trans fats, organic, GMO-free, and gluten-free – just to name a few. While food manufacturers can’t technically lie to you on food packaging, it pays to be savvy if you really want to know if what you’re eating is good for you. Here are some of the most popular health claims made on food packaging and what they really mean.

Natural

If a food is natural, then it’s got to be healthy for you – right? Well, when you think about it, isn’t all food technically natural? Furthermore, this term isn’t something regulated by the FDA, so it can be a bit misleading. That’s because it doesn’t give you any clue as to the safety, nutritional content, health effects, or even the ingredients in the food. Potato chips can claim to be natural because they’re made from potatoes instead of flakes, but that still doesn’t make them healthy.

Made with Real Fruit (or Fruit Juice)

If you have kids, then you see this on a lot of foods that appeal to them. It’s meant to wrap parents in a blanket of warmth and protection, knowing that what they’re feeding their children is healthy because – hey – there’s fruit in there! The truth is, there is no law that says a minimal amount of fruit is required to make this claim, so one drop of grape juice may be all there is. Just look at the nutritional information, the further down on the list fruit is mentioned, the less there is of it. And skip anything that has high fructose corn syrup or sugar listed as one of the first or second ingredients.

Whole Grains

You see whole grains on almost everything, from cereal to crackers to baked goods. It’s a pretty confusing term once you break it down because the manufacturer can use whole grain no matter how much whole wheat is actually in the product. Often, there are no health benefits to the number of whole grains in a product making this claim. All you need to do in order to find out is have a look at the nutritional information. Terms such as “whole wheat flour” should be high on the ingredients list if it’s really going to offer any health benefits.

Don't let food labels fool you into making bad health choices! 

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Greenwood Village, Colo.

 

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