Wading Through Nutrition Label BS

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reading nutrition fact label on carton

The nutrition and fitness markets are billion-dollar industries. The problem is many products and programs are not effective regardless of how much they cost. It only shows how well they can market their services. It also demonstrates how much money people spend on them each year. It is important to discern between the truth and hype.

Misleading Marketing Methods

A wide array of marketing phrases is employed to catch the eyes of consumers. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably when in fact they are not at all similar. This often leads to confusion and frustration. Other times these campaigns are outright bullshit. This results in disappointment and broken bank accounts. If you have tried and failed, the good news is it is not necessarily your fault.

young man in grocery store looking at food labelThere are several points you should keep in mind while reading any type of label or description. They can help you avoid deception and falling prey to scams. You should automatically regard anything as questionable, especially if it claims to be a magic bullet with no definitive explanation. It is best to ask questions first and make informed decisions.

You are the Miracle

One of the most common marketing techniques used is exaggerated claims. In some cases, these are half-truths while in others they are bold face lies. Remember your health plan must include a holistic approach. No one formula in a capsule will melt fat. No packaged meal program will give you a beach body overnight. This is not magic. It requires a sound plan, dedication, and demanding work.

Many people have become avid label readers and still get ripped off. This is in part due to laws and regulations that fluctuate year to year. Don’t be hypnotized by hocus-pocus and pretty packaging. Take time to research the laws about nutrition labels and ingredients. Don’t just research the ingredients but investigate the company and its practices.

  • Look up the ingredients and recommended amounts of each based on your health goals.
  • Visit and surf the company website.
  • Look for customer reviews off and on-site.
  • Ask friends, family, and co-workers.
  • Always read the fine print.
  • Call the company and seek answers to your questions.
  • Make sure you understand the fine print and return policy.

White Lie Labeling

All natural is an eye-catching phrase thrown around quite a bit. The terms healthy and all natural are not mutually inclusive. It generally means the product’s ingredients do not include artificial colors and/or flavors.

People fall for the low-fat label all the time. This simply means it contains less fat than many others of its kind. Foods which are marketed as low-fat are often laden with tons of sugar as well.

FDA regulations allow food manufacturers to round down trans fat numbers. This means 0.5 grams per serving becomes 0 trans-fat. You are probably consuming more trans fats that you realize if you rely on this labeling tactic.

Think about the phrase vegetarian hen. Chickens eat worms which are classified as animals. Either the hens do not run about freely or this is another little white label lie. There is also great debate about the nutritional value and safety of eggs produced from hens forced to follow vegetarian diets.

Another effectively deceptive word is light. Many marketers use it to describe the flavor of a food, not the calorie or fat content. Some companies are a bit more honest and products are lighter in fat. Remember it only needs to be reduced by 50% to be labeled light.

sugar free sodaIt is nearly impossible to find a food which is completely sugar-free. An apple picked right off the tree contains fructose. Sugar is commonly used as a preservative too. Fruits, veggies, grains, and milk all contain natural sugars. Note that products which contain alcohol sugars can be labeled as sugar-free.

Salt-free is a misnomer and eliminating all sodium from your diet may not be as healthy as you are led to believe. A certain amount of sodium is important to all life and a key component of electrolyte balance. Read the label to see if it contains added fat or sugars to replace the missing salt content

Healthful & Holistic Approach

There are several central elements to any weight management, fitness, or health program. It is important to keep them in mind when weighing the pros and cons of your plan.

  • It must be a comprehensive program.
  • It should be personally tailored to fit your lifestyle, health, and habits.
  • You must move. Your fitness plan must include physical activity which is at least a bit above that which you are currently used to.
  • You should cut the junk food and eat healthy foods. This includes on the run munching and snack time.
  • Your diet must be a proper balance of good fats, protein, and carbohydrates.
  • Remember that cutting back does not necessarily mean eliminating all goodies. Rewards can improve your mental health, boost your determination, and reduce big time cheat eating.
  • Write everything down. This should include your exercise program and diet plan. You should also make note of your successes, failures, and any changes you make to your program along the way.

While you are becoming a label reader and designing your health plan, there are a couple easy rules you can follow. As a general guideline, the shorter the ingredient list on food products, the better. The first ingredient is the main component. Also, beware of anything you cannot pronounce. Odds are, it is probably not good for you. Supplements, shakes, and program packaged meals can contain unwanted or unhealthy foods as well. Read the labels and don’t fall for little white marketing lies.