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Food Labels Tricks that Manufacturers Employ! Here's the Heads Up!

Posted May 21 2012 9:16pm


1.  Sugar by any other name......is still sugar!   Watch for any ingredients that end in "ose" such as sucrose, dextrose, maltose, fructose - these are all sugars. Other "offenders" include honey, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, barley malt, caramel, fruit juice concentrate, and cane juice.  In other instances sugar alcohols (which all end in -ol, such as mallitol and xylitol )may be used which can cause stomach upset if eaten in excess.

2. Low Fat or Fat Free
   Many consumers will seek out products with reduced fat or fat free options assuming that they are always the healthier choice.  This is not always the case.   Fat is added to foods to create flavor and texture. Manufacturers have to replace fat with other ingredients  so you don't taste a huge difference or so that the food is palatable.  Many times additional salt or sugar is added in the place of fat.

Some companies will add the "fat free" product claim on a food item that is typically unhealthy despite not containing fat.  A good example of this would be a product like licorice or other candy item.  Yes, this item may be non-fat, however it is high in sugars.

3.  Portion Distortion

READ YOUR LABELS.  In many cases, the nutritional information listed on your favorite food item is not for the entire package.  Many products which reasonable look like one portion are not when looking at the food label.  For example, that bottle of sweetened ice tea that you may swig down in one shot is for 2 servings!  Therefore multiple those calories and sugar by 2!!!

4. "Reduced" and "Low"

These two words are not synonymous.  A food listed as having a "reduced" ingredient (i.e. salt, sugar, fat) means that it contains at least 25% less than the original version of a product.  For example a Reduced Fat salad dressing may contain 25% less fat than the regular version, but that doesn't mean it is low fat. 

5.  "Zero" and "Free"
Foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat are by law allowed to be labeled as "trans fat free" or to say "zero grams".  Keep in mind that if you are eating more than the recommended portion on the label this can add up.  For example,  let's say you are using a margarine labeled, "trans fat free" and it contains .4g of trans fats and you have a portion equivalent to 10 serving sizes or consume this amount over a period of a few days, you are really consuming 4 grams of trans fat - not zero!
Another caveat is the term "sugar free".  Sugar free foods are not calorie or carbohydrate free.

6.  Read Your Ingredients
Look at your ingredient list in your favorite foods.  Can you identify all of them - can you pronounce all of them?  Ingredients are listed in order of  predominance.  If you see sugars or other questionable ingredients listed first -- you might want to avoid the product.  Another important point is to look at the ingredient lists on your favorite organic product.  Just because it is "organic" doesn't mean that it is all natural - it can be a processed foods with an organic label.
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