How well do you understand the numerous nutrition claims and information crowded on food packages? The nutrition facts and claims can be difficult to read and understand. Claims about the amount of nutrients or substances in a food such as low sodium or fat free are more visible and easier to understand, but many claims are misleading.
The FDA regulates these claims, yet many snack companies have manipulated these terms and use them as a selling point. For example, research has shown that consumers rated potato chips with a vitamin fortified claim as healthier than vegetable chips when the vegetable chips were actually healthier. This study highlights that just because a product carries a nutrient claim on its label, it does not necessarily make it a healthier choice. Additionally, people were less likely to look at the nutrition label if the product had a nutrient claim. These claims can influence consumers to eat more of these products, which are often high in fat, sugar and calories and low in fiber and other nutrients.
Here is the truth behind some of these misleading nutrient claims:
• Claims such as all natural, free range, pasture raised, lightly sweetened and made with real fruit are not regulated by the FDA.
• Multigrain: Many multigrain products contain refined flour and can have minimal whole grains. Look for whole grain or 100% whole wheat instead of multigrain.
• No Added Sugar: These products are often high in naturally occurring sugar.
• Zero Trans Fat: This actually means the product contains less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving. Read the ingredients and if it contains a partially hydrogenated oil, then the product contains trans fat.
• Fat Free: Fat free products can have just as many calories and sugar as the full fat version.
Bottom line: Learn how to read and understand nutrition labels and nutrient claims so you can choose healthier food products. For more information, visit: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm2006828.htm#toc
Written by: Christina Jung, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics