Sneaky Food Labels… Are You Being Tricked?



Reading nutrition labels can be daunting when buying food if you do not know what you are looking for.  So here is a simple guide to navigating nutrition labels and figuring out what to look for when reading them. It is good to be aware of what’s in your food.

How Do Nutrition Labels Work?

The FDA requires that trans fats, or hydrogenated oils, to be listed on food labels. Even though hydrogenated oils are not the main topic of this post, it’s a good ingredient to start with. If a product has more than one gram per serving, the FDA requires it be put on the food label.

But, this is where it gets tricky.

There is a way to get around that. If a company reduces the serving size down enough, so the amount of hydrogenated oils in each serving is just under 1 gram, they do not have to list it.

Peanut butter is a good example to start with because it has hydrogenated oils in it. But, the nutritional label says 0 grams of trans fats. That way when you pick it up, you see trans fats are zero and automatically think that it must be healthy. The serving size has been cut down enough that there is less than 1 gram per serving so that it does not have to be listed in the nutrition label itself but there is still hydrogenated oil in the product.

Nutrition Label or Ingredients?

We want you to not only look at what’s in the food label itself, but what’s in the ingredients list.

On peanut butter labels, if it’s unnatural, then right there on the ingredients list you can see hydrogenated oils. That also means that if you go at all over the serving size, which most of us do because it’s not hard to, you’ll be consuming at least a gram of trans fats.

There are some other things to be looking at when reading the nutrition labels. Breakfast cereals are laden with food coloring, artificial flavors and preservatives. Some studies show links between these artificial food coloring and artificial flavoring and ADD and ADHD (1, 2, 3).

Another example of something to watch out for on food labels, especially cereals, is that they are also often labeled as “fortified.”

What Does Fortified Mean?

Fortified means that the cereal, or product, has had to add vitamins and minerals because their product is so processed that it no longer contains them naturally.

Companies are trying to show you that their products are healthy by listing the things the fortify them with. But this is not the case, because the extreme process that took them out of the product in the first place makes this high processed food bad for you.

These cereals, and other products, might also boast that they are gluten free to make themselves look healthier because we associate the word gluten with unhealthy. Just because a product is gluten free, doesn’t make it healthy.

These are considered health “buzz words” that make the consumer feel like they are making a healthy choice. Other buzz words to look for are sugar-free, lite, whole wheat, and balanced.

It is this type of confusion that helps motivate us to create our Custom Meal Plans. We know what that companies are trying to sell you unhealthy food by marketing them as healthy. We know there is so much of it out there, it can be hard to learn what is really good and what isn’t. 

Instead of guessing what products are healthy by the label, we do all of that work for you and make it easy to buy healthy foods for yourself and we have already helped thousands of people around the world eat healthier. 

What Determines What Is On The Food Label?

There are also certain things that have to be listed by law on a nutrition label. Some brands list the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, but not all brands do because the breakdown of unsaturated fats is not required by law.

It is only required that they list fats and saturated fats. They are also required to say how much cholesterol and sodium, how many carbohydrates and sugar a product has in it.

Fiber is another thing that doesn’t have to be listed. Not all foods have a complete vitamin breakdown either. Vitamin E and Vitamin C have to be listed. But Folic acid, Vitamin B 12, Niacin, and Zinc are often being left out because those are things that people don’t often get enough of. Products that are fortified in these vitamins and minerals want you to see it on the label to make their product look better.

Besides hydrogenated oils, here are other things to watch out for and avoid:

  • Sugar (in any form)
  • Dyes (any and all that are not natural)
  • Preservatives
  • Artificial Flavors
  • Any ingredient you do not know, or cannot pronounce

Moral of the story, read the food labels, as well as the ingredients list. Remember to look up ingredients you don’t know and know what you are putting in your body. At the end of the day, we are what we eat. This is why we’ve created our Custom Meal Plans, so you don’t have to worry about what food to eat and what food not to eat. Each plan is designed specifically for your body and your goals.

Be patient, stay the course, and let’s get fit together.