Friday, October 15, 2010

Misleading Food Labels

Yes, yes that is my morning cup of Persian Earl Grey Tea covered in my face

However the rest of my breakfast was not a fail. The star of the show was this Pumpkin Spice Chevre. I bought it at the store for no good reason besides that it was on sale and I thought the sample guy would judge me if I didn't buy it after sampling it and going crazy. Crazy in love that is.

So I made some mega toast with it, because I have no idea how else to use it besides on crackers.

Layers of the Maga Toast:
1. Honey- let it soak into the bread
2. PB
3. THIN layer Pumkin Price Chevre Goat Cheese
4. THICK layer canned pumpkin
5. Another tiny (ok maybe it was medium...) drizzle honey.
6. Craisins and Almonds
7. Ready, Set, Devour!

Enjoyed with a salvaged cup of fair skin face poweder with an aftertaste of Earl Grey Tea ;)

Now here is my first installment of...


I feel like I haven't been dispensing enough knowledge lately so here you go a little info on what those food labels actually mean, don't hurt me when I ruin your dreams of "reduced fat" "all-natural" ice cream being the best thing in the world for you :)


I used to be a graphic design major, which means I know a couple things about designing labels. One thing that really stuck with me is that a label is seen by a manufacturer solely as a marketing tool.

Labels are not honest. They are not meant to inform you of what you will be consuming. The manufacturers just want you to notice their product on the shelf and then buy it.
(One of the many reasons I quit GD was because I didn't want to EVER chance having to work in advertising.)

Here are some of the top misleading eye catching label phrases that make a product seem "healthy"...

Lightly Sweetened- There are no guidelines for this phrase. Before buying something with this label take a look at the ingredients list and see if there is an excessive amount of sugar and multiple variations on the word sugar (i.e. high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, saccharine, maltodextrin...etc.) put it back on the shelf.

Reduced Fat- This solely means the makers have reduced the fat by 25%. This doesn't mean it is suddenly "healthy" and usually manufacturers end up replacing the fat with weird additives and sugar that make the product even worse for your health...rather than better.

Reduced Sodium- Same story as reduced fat. What you want to look for is "Low Sodium" this can only be used when the product has less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. But again be careful to check the serving size to make sure it isn't unrealistically small in order to accommodate the low sodium label.

Trans-Fat Free- The recommended maximum intake of trans fat per day is 2 grams. Manufacturers can put this label on their product if there is less than 0.49 grams per serving. This is still quite a bit of trans fat considering the max intake recommended. Check the label to make sure there are no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils just to be safe.

Fat Free- A product that contains no fat is not automatically healthy. This is a common label on candy wrappers or unhealthy sugary treats, because sugar contains no fat. But a candy bar whose ingredients list contains 5 different types of sugar, preservatives, and colorants is not healthy, no matter how low in fat it is.

Sugar-Free- Usually this means aspartame or some other chemical sweetener has been added. These are much worse for you than sugar! These chemicals have been linked to weight-gain and many other health problems. Instead look in the ingredients list and make sure the sugar in the product you are purchasing come from all-natural sources like fruit, honey, cane sugar...etc.

Lightly Breaded- Just because there are not a lot of bread crumbs on your fried chicken leg does not mean the calories from the oil it was saturated in and then cooked in went away. Go for all the breading and a baked version instead.

Whole Wheat or Multi-grain- Whole Wheat only means that whole wheat was used, it does not specify how refined it is or how much sugar was added. Multi-grain means that more than one type of grain was used, again what you should be concerned about is how refined the grain is. The label on the product you want to buy is 100% Whole Wheat. 100% Whole Wheat means the grain has gone through very little processing and thus offers the highest amount of nutrients to you.

Good Source Of...- This label means it only has 10-19% of the nutrient. And sometimes when these labels are present the manufacturer actually added the nutrients to their food, rather than have it naturally occur. One good example of this are Fiber One Bars, they have added fiber through a man-made chemical: inulin and has 6 types of sugar in it.

All Natural- There are absolutely no guidelines for the use of this term. Which means a box of pop-tarts made primarily of crop subsidies and high fructose corn syrup could be labeled "all natural".

Organic- There are some guidelines with this label, but they are quite vague and I have read that they are not enforced very well. To be safe do a little research and see if the food you are getting from the big box supermarket is actually "organic" or if they are solely charging you more for the same product not labeled with organic. The best way to get real organic produce is to shop at your local farmer's market. Find a local Farmer's Market here!

Whether you are trying to lose weight or just eat a little bit healthier your best bet is to forgo labels and packaged products all together. This is very hard to do! But the more natural straight from the ground/plant/tree fresh food you can eat, the better. When you do buy packaged products don't be fooled by these "healthy" sounding labels. Turn the product around and look at the ingredients listed. If you can't pronounce the ingredient or don't know what the heck it is then put it back on the shelf! Oh and I know you can pronounce red dye #40 and you know what it is...but that still doesn't mean you should eat it ;)

All natural, organic colorants in these tomatoes...have a healthy Friday!


  1. Great review of food labels here! I completely agree about the misleading labeling.

  2. Great post! I knew that labels could be misleading with calories and a handful of other things but had no idea what "a good source of" meant. Thanks for the info!