Making smart nutrition decisions starts at the grocery store. You want to make healthy choices for you and your family. But, it’s easy to be fooled by appealing packaging and health claims.
Connie Beutel, a registered dietician at Medical Mutual, breaks down a few food slogans and why these healthy terms may not be so healthy.
Made with/from Real Fruit
Foods claiming to be made with or from real fruit often come with labels decorated with appealing pictures of whole fruit. But, they often contain little real fruit in the form of juice concentrate or fruit “bits.” A great example of this is juice “drink” which usually contains only a small percentage of real fruit juice and plenty of added sugars. Look for juices that are 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugars and focus on getting your recommended servings of fruit in the produce section.
Made with Whole Grain
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) indicates products “made with whole grain” contain some amount of whole grain. But, these foods can still contain mostly white flour. The FDA doesn’t get specific about the percentage of whole grain in these products. Read the ingredient list. Whole grain or whole wheat flour should be the first ingredient listed. For maximum health benefits, look for products that are labeled 100 percent whole wheat and eat other whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur and whole grain pasta. Be aware of words that do NOT mean whole grain: wheat flour, enriched white flour, multigrain, and stoneground.
“Natural” sounds appealing, but the FDA doesn’t define or regulate use of the label “natural” on food products. Food manufacturers can call anything natural, even if there’s nothing natural about the product.
Zero Trans Fat
Trans fats increase bad LDL cholesterol and decrease good HDL cholesterol. Even if a label boasts “zero trans fat,” the product could contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Check the ingredient list on the nutrition label. If the term “partially hydrogenated” is included, the product contains trans fat. And even 0.5 grams per serving of hidden trans fats can add up if it’s a product you eat often.
Learn more about making the right shopping choices in our Easy Ways to Reduce Fat article.