When it comes to the things that you eat, there are a ton of marketing ploys used to mislead you, the consumer. Let’s start with a phrase that’s spreading like wildfire, “all-natural.” You’ve probably seen this popping up on a whole lot of packaging lately. You’ve probably bought something other than what you initially intended because you saw the item next to it was “all-natural.” The problem is, “all-natural” has no USDA definition. This means companies can slap the term “all-natural” on a product that is nothing but processed junk and sell it to the consumer for a higher price.
Being a "source of.." means that within 1 serving of the product itself, there is 10-17% of your daily recommended intake. So, for the sake of simple math, if you need 1000mg of calcium each day, you would be getting 100 to 170mg from that food. Not such a great source after all huh?
"Reduced fat" means that a product has a 25% reduction in the amount of fat compared to the original product. The problem with reduced-fat items is that they are marketed to people that believe that fat makes you fat. Fat alone does not. In fact, it's when fat is coupled with carbohydrates (sugars) that fat becomes a problem. This is why "low fat" products are generally not good for you. Because fat is a flavor carrier, it needs to be replaced with something else that has flavor. Most companies will replace fat with salt and CARBOHYDRATE FILLERS! Carbs in combination with fat are the ENEMY! This is why you should forgo the "low fat" and go full fat! Not only does the food taste better, but fats tell the brain that you are full faster. Win-win.
"Reduced sodium" also means that the product has a 25% reduction in the amount of sodium compared to the original product. The product, even when “reduced” may still have an incredible amount of salt! Instead, look for the label "low sodium." That label has a set standard of 140mg/serving. Much better than just "reduced" sodium.
Now this label, it really ticks me off.....“Lightly sweetened.” The big problem here is that "lightly sweetened" has NO SET STANDARD! That’s why “lightly sweetened” products are likely still bad for you! In fact, there is as much sugar in 1 cup of Kellogg’s Smart Start as there is in a serving of Oreos. Bummer right?! You would never look at a cup of Kellogg's next to a cup of Oreos and think that the Oreos were better for you. You would also never give your kids a bowl of Oreos for breakfast, but essentially, that's what your body, or their bodies, are getting!
And a final buzz phrase to end the blog, "trans-fat free." Trans fats are bad. You are generally taking in trans fats from fried foods. Restaurants use this type of oil because it is inexpensive and has a long shelf life. This means they can fry and fry all day without having to change their oils. The label "trans-fat free" means that a product has less than .49 grams of trans fats per serving. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2 grams/day. The problem here is, that if you eat a platter from Long John Silver's that is "trans-fat free," but actually contains .4 grams/plank, you are eating over 1.2 grams (1200mg) of trans fat, when you thought you were eating none.
The obesity trend in America is growing. In order to reverse this, it is going to take more than just exercise. We cannot rely on the food industry to sell us products that are nutritious and healthy or we will continue to be fat and sick. We have got to change the way we eat! Obviously, the people that market to us know this, and they are not changing the product, they are changing the LABELING! Be informed about what is in your food. Read the labels. And lastly, know what these buzz words actually mean!