Food labels are handy little things. In one quick glance, you can find out some of the most important information about your food…right? Well, not always. Some food companies use food labels to hide or disguise what is really inside. From sneaky word choices to unrealistic serving sizes, sometimes finding out the truth takes a little bit of hard work. Want to make the process easier? You’re in luck! These tips to read food labels will help you read between the lines.
Ignore The Label Claims
As you walk around the supermarket, you probably notice plenty of packaging with claims like: fat-free, low calorie, made with real fruit, enriched with whole grains, sugar free, and so on. They are all great selling tactics, but not much more than that. Behind each one of those claims is a hidden truth. For example, if something says it has been fortified, that really just means it has been processed. If it says organically grown, it doesn’t actually tell you whether or not the product is healthy. When it says no added sugar, that doesn’t mean the food has no sugar substitutes inside. Seeing a pattern here? Companies often try to fool consumers with words…so forget the claims altogether.
Don’t Just Look At The Nutrition Facts
You’re trying to decide what food you should buy. So, you take a look at the nutrition facts on the back of the packaging. In bold lettering you can find out key information, like: calories per serving, the amount of sodium, fibre, as well as what vitamins and minerals are present. Sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately not. They do not always give you an accurate idea of the food. For instance, a serving of chocolate may be listed as 3 squares, but the average person would eat the entire bar. Read carefully and try to look beyond the bolded font.
Understand The Ingredients List
It’s what is inside that counts, especially when it comes to your food. Every product is required to list the ingredients in order from highest to lowest. If you see that sugar is the first ingredient listed, run! That food will not be good for you. In order to read between the lines, look at the ingredient list carefully.
Further, be sure to look for ingredients that you can actually understand. Often, there will be all kinds of artificial flavours, colours, and sugars that don’t really say what they are. Refined sugar may be listed as high fructose corn syrup instead, as a way to hide the real nutritional information from consumers as much as possible. (Hint: anything ending in ‘ose’ is a form of sugar.) Something to think about: if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it probably isn’t something you want to be eating!
Food labels are sneaky. Even though they are supposed to make life easier, they can actually make it more difficult. Thanks to companies that care only about the bottom dollar, consumers need to be aware – and learn to read between the lines.