Food Label Lies - How To Tell If You Are Being Misled

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Is there a chance that all those supposedly “healthy” foods you are buying are sabotaging your health?

You’ve seen the packaging - “Low Fat” this…”Low Calorie” that..Then there’s every other box of health food claiming to be “All Natural”, “Energy Boosting”, “Multi Grain”, “No Trans Fats”…

It seems like you have to be a closet scientist and have a degree in chemistry to understand what’s REALLY in the food you’re buying. At the very least, you need some extra time and the ability to concentrate at the grocery store (meaning leave the kids at the babysitters) in order to make smart buying decisions. 

Let’s take a look at three examples and see if we can translate some common food labels to get to the bottom of it.

1. Canned fruit. Take a look at this product. They are peaches in “extra light syrup” and have “1/3 less calories than peaches in heavy syrup.” The term “Lightly Sweetened” is not regulated by the FDA. It doesn’t mean anything. These peaches could have 1g to 100g or more of ADDED SUGAR.  So if you MUST buy canned fruit, buy the kind that says NO sugar added, which IS regulated by the FDA. The absolute best solution is to just buy the real deal, nothing is as good as a fresh peach!

2. Protein Chewy Bars. If you look at the packaging of this product, you’d think you were buying a protein bar. But if you look closer at the Nutrition Facts, you can clearly see the truth. These particular bars have 12g fat, 14g carbohydrates and only 10 g of protein. They should call them Fat Bars! But then they wouldn’t sell as many, would they? This is the perfect example why I don’t take much note of the front of the packaging. I ALWAYS quickly flip it to the nutrition facts when I’m shopping. 

3. Butter Top Wheat Bread. The packaging on this bread is very simple. They let you know in big bold black letters that there is no high fructose corn syrup. In my opinion, they are preying on the customer’s perceived knowledge of nutrition. They also let us know there is 8g of whole grain, it’s baked with unbleached flour and made with sea salt. It’s a generic brand and it’s pretty inexpensive. But if you look at the Nutrition Facts, you’ll see in the ingredients just how unhealthy this bread really is. Yes, it’s made with unbleached enriched flour…but that’s basically saying they took the perfect wheat grain, stripped it down of all it’s natural nutrition including most of it’s fiber and intentionally added back a tiny bit of nutrients. If you keep reading, they list several types of sugars. This bread is basically empty calories with very little nutritional value. It’s also sadly what most kids’ lunches are made with because it’s inexpensive. If I do buy bread, it’s almost always a multi grain organic bread. If it’s certified organic, then I know there is nothing artificial without taking the time to scan the ingredients list. It’s definitely more expensive, but as they say, you get what you pay for. 

The moral of the story is you can’t always believe the front of the packaging. The fancy catch phrases can be very misleading. Make sure you take the time to educate yourself on what’s actually IN the foods you buy. In order to do that, you must understand how to read the Nutrition Facts and the ingredients list. As they say, “If it didn’t grow from the ground or have a mother, don’t eat it!

Here's an excellent visual on how to read food labels. I hope you find it helpful.

Andrea Otley is a horse crazy wife and mom of 3 from a small ranching community in SE Oregon. She is a recovering sugar addict who lost over 30lbs of baby weight without dieting, starving or feeling deprived. She is an online nutrition and fitness coach who is obsessed with helping other horsewomen live a healthy lifestyle in an unhealthy world. Visit

NutritionAndrea Otley