Food Labels

The following information is designed to inform individuals how to examine a food label more in depth to avoid cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat, while also limiting the excess consumption of both sugar and sodium. This information is meant to address the contributing risk factors leading to the development of coronary heart disease. The information is also provided to help individuals be able to quickly examine a product to determine if the product may be health promoting or not. While label reading may not necessarily be anyone’s idea of a good time, it is a critical step in combating, and potentially reversing, coronary heart disease. For those new to label reading, reading labels takes time. Be sure to dedicate some time during the shopping trip to read labels. For some individuals, this may be new information. For others, who have previously looked at food labels, this information may change the way food labels are viewed. Always make food purchasing decisions based upon the ingredient statement, and nutrition facts panel. Don’t be fooled by marketing claims found on the products packaging.

Food manufacturers and marketing executives will do anything they can to entice consumers to purchase their products. Flashy labels, eye catching graphics, and misleading quotes and phrases are used to entice customers. As consumers the only thing we have to rely on are the ingredient statement and nutrition facts panel. However, even the nutrition facts panel can be deceiving without reading the ingredients first. Remember these companies are trying to sell a product, not health, and they have a vested interest in getting their customers attention.

Marketing executives know how to get their customers attention with words like:

word cloud

These same marketing teams add images to their products that are appealing to our eyes such as those seen in the image below by Anjali, board certified health coach.

anjali graphic

These words and images do not end up on labels by mistake. They are deliberately placed on packages because focus groups have found they provide customers with a sense of safety and security. However, what consumers do not realize is that images and words do not necessarily equate to the healthfulness of the product. Try to ignore packaging claims as much as possible. These companies are trying to sell a product, not health, though they are trying to sell the idea of health based upon the words they use.

Here is a great video clip from Registered Dietitian Jeff Novick from the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa California explaining how to read food labels.

Consumers generally equate words like “organic,” “free range,” and “Non-GMO” with health, but “organic,” free range,” and “Non-GMO” do not always mean healthy. A great example of this could be if these claims were found on cigarette packaging. If a cigarette manufacturer claimed on their cigarette packaging that the tobacco was “organic,” and “non-gmo” this would not make the cigarette any healthier, even though the claim may be true. Therefore, product labels can be deceptive and should not be trusted.

Here are a general list of steps individuals can take to avoid being deceived by the food industries:

Always avoid buying foods based upon flashy packaging, how the labels look, and the statements made on the label. These are meant to mislead the consumer leaving the consumer with a false sense of safety and security. This is marketing at its best.



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