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Girl Vs. Food: The most misleading food labels

By Becky Radolf
On March 7, 2012

Here's a not-so-secret secret about the food industry: they will do freaking anything for you to buy their product.

I love food. I love it so much that I spend my days thinking of ways to talk about it in this column. But I hate food companies. Most of them are deceptive, manipulative and work closely with the FDA to get front-side labels and weird ingredients approved so that they can fool the consumer into thinking that what he or she is eating is good for them.

Don't get lured into misleading words and phrases. There are entire teams devoted to finding a way to convince customers that their food is healthy, and knowing what to look for can ensure you don't get conned.

One of the most common things you'll see on food boxes is the phrase, "low-fat" or "non-fat." You'll think to yourself, "Good Lord! I don't want any fat in my food because that will be fat in my body! I better get this low-fat product because it will keep my body looking like Candice Swanepoel's...or something close-ish to that."

Au contraire, health-conscious buyer, "Low-fat" is actually code for," we took out the good, unsaturated fats from this product and upped the sugar so it still tastes good."

If you compare a low-fat product with its regular counterpart, you'll notice that, while the total fat may have gone down a gram or two, the saturated fat has probably stayed the same and the sugar has gone considerably up. Not only is low-fat or non-fat usually not better for you, but you're depriving yourself of the omega-3 fatty acids your body needs.

And don't think "low-sugar" is any better. Generally, that just means the sugar they took out has been replaced with aspartame or sucralose (sold as Splenda). Now, everyone's entitled to their own opinions about artificial sweeteners, but you should at least know what you're getting yourself into before you purchase something you think is healthy.

Ever buy something that says "made with whole grains" or "whole-wheat?" Sorry to say, but you're getting duped.

Foods like crackers, breads, cereals, etc. are all made with whole grains…to start off. Those whole grains are broken down and refined, making whatever is in that box far different from the whole grain it started out as. If "whole grain" isn't the first ingredient listed, chances are there aren't many whole grains in that food at all.

Furthermore, if something totes a "whole wheat" label, it doesn't make it whole wheat at all. The label needs to say "100 percent whole wheat" to truly be getting the nutritional benefits of it.

If that weren't confusing enough, things that tote the word "light" on them, might actually not be "diet-friendly light" like you probably thought. Marketers use the word in hopes that people confuse it with a low-calorie option, when actually, they're just referring to the color of the food. You'll see this for a lot of breads and especially olive oil. Tsk, tsk, food corporations. We're onto you.

Finally, phrases that tell you the food "may lower cholesterol" or "heart healthy" are just a bunch of phrases to blow smoke up your you-know-what. Cheerios boxes are some of the biggest culprits, stating that they help with cholesterol, but they help just about as well as water does. And water doesn't help at all. Cheerios won't make your cholesterol any worse, but certainly eating bowls of it everyday won't make even a slight impact. Oatmeal that claims it is heart-healthy is pulling the same prank.

The best thing you can do for yourself to not get suckered is to always read the ingredients of whatever you're buying. Get informed, know what words like "maltodextrin" and "acesfulfame potassium" actually mean, so when you see it in your food, you can decide for yourself if it's something you want to put in your body.


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