The Scoop on Food

Don't Be Tricked By These Healthy-Sounding Food Labels

Despite what my neighbors might suspect, I am not judging anyone and the contents of their carts when I'm at the grocery store. What does get me judgy at the supermarket: The way food marketers try to trick parents. The claims and labels found on the front of food and drink packaging these days are often over-hyped and downright misleading. Marketers know you might need an extra nudge to buy something—especially things for your kids that don't seem very wholesome or healthy—so they add an impressive-sounding statement to entice you.

Here are six to think twice about:

"100% Daily Value for Vitamin C": This one drives me nuts because it's often used as a selling point on sugary beverages. The reality is, we don't need very much vitamin C every day, it's not very hard to get, and it's not a nutrient of concern for kids like iron is. In fact, a child ages 4-8 can get their entire day's worth by eating just three medium strawberries.

"Good Source of Protein": Everyone seems to be obsessed with protein these days. While we certainly need it and it definitely has its perks (it's the most filling of the nutrients), kids and adults typically get more than they need anyway. So when I see "good source of protein!" on a package of, say, frozen pizza rolls, all I can do is shake my head—and hope nobody falls for it.

"All Natural": The tricky thing about the "natural" claim is that "natural" has a pretty loose definition. It simply means there's nothing artificial in the product. It doesn't mean the product is automatically wholesome. All-natural soda is still loaded with sugar and all-natural chips are still chips.

"No High Fructose Corn Syrup": As some manufacturers phase out high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), they're proclaiming it on the label. Now "made with real sugar" seems to be a selling point on things like soda. It shouldn't be. Though research is still mixed on whether we need to worry specifically about HFCS, there's definitely evidence that too much of any added sugar can have negative effects on health.

"Made With Whole Grains": Whole grains are important because they're richer in protein, fiber, and vitamins compared to refined grains. But you can now see "made with whole grains" on packages of snack chips and boxes of sugary cereal. Not exactly the best way to get your whole grains.

"Organic": I'm all for eating local and organic whenever possible. But sometimes these kinds of claims make any food seem especially healthy. Organic milk is one thing, but organic ice cream and lollipops? Still ice cream and lollipops.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook Twitter Pinterest, and Instagram. She is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Grocery shopping via Shutterstock