For a lot of my clients, one of the most overwhelming steps they encounter on their health journey is learning to read food labels and ingredient lists. Not only are food labels and ingredient lists wordy and misleading, but a lot of us feel like we need to learn another language just to understand what the ingredients are! So, in order to avoid the confusion and ensuing overwhelm, it’s understandable that people rely on packaging “buzz phrases” to help them make a healthy choice.
However, this is a common tactic used by “health food” companies and “health food” marketing to attract a health conscious consumer without really offering a healthy product. This is something called “Health Washing”. Health washing is when companies use deceptive marketing to portray the “health benefits” of their product, when in reality their product is full of sugar, sodium, and/or preservatives. For example, a package at the grocery store might have phrases like “low in sugar” or “sugar-free” stamped on the front but, when inspected closer, are actually loaded with artificial sweeteners and chemicals. A box of cereal, for example, may be “free of artificial colours or flavours”, but packed with sugar or sodium. Essentially, it’s like trying to mask a steaming pile of garbage with a spritz of air freshener.
There are so many misleading labels slapped on food packages that create the illusion that you are making a healthy choice! As a key component in my nutritional consulting, this is actually one of my favorite topics to discuss with my clients! There are some simple tricks and phrases to look out for that’ll raise a red flag in your mind to double check the ingredients! For example, if you see one of the labels listed below on any “health foods”, double check the ingredient list to make sure it’s actually a healthy choice that aligns with your goals and your health journey.
- Low calorie
- 100% natural
- Fortified with (Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Calcium, etc)
- Made with all-natural ingredients
- Made with real ingredients
- Made with real fruit
- Low sodium
- Low cholesterol
- Source of fibre
- Source of omega-3s
- Source of probiotics
- Provides X% of your recommended daily amount of (protein, fiber, calcium, iron, etc)
- Free from … (artificial colours, artificial flavours, etc.)