With so much competition on the grocery shelves these days, coupled with us trying to eat as healthy as possible, we often rely on food labels to help us decide which products to buy.

There are a lot of claims being made on food packages these days, but they don’t always mean what you think.  Plus, research shows that consumers often assume foods with these claims are healthier than those without them… and that the actual nutritional facts don’t do much to change people’s minds.  Don’t be blinded by buzzwords!

Read on for the full scoop…



Pop quiz!
Does the official, government-regulated term “all-natural” ensure that a product is:
a) free of all artificial ingredients,
b) healthy,
c) made without any GMOs,
d) all of the above, or
e) none of the above?

Shocker alert!
The answer is e) NONE of the above!

This is because there are no official guidelines — neither the US Food & Drug Administration nor the Department of Agriculture has criteria or requirements for what can and cannot be labeled all-natural. You’re basically taking the company at its word. I’m not saying that these companies are lying, but it all comes down to semantics — something that one company considers “natural” might be an additive that you’d consider pretty processed. Our advice for natural-food purists? Check the ingredient list for the full 411. And when it comes to weight loss and weight management, you’re gonna wanna read the nutrition panel carefully.



This is one of the most popular and divisive label claims out there right now. Much like all the claims on this list, people tend to think gluten-free = diet-friendly.  In fact, a study found that 27 percent of gluten-free-food consumers eat these foods because they feel they’ll help their weight-loss efforts, and 65 percent of consumers who choose gluten-free foods do so because they believe them to be healthier than foods containing gluten.  But as one of the study’s food analysts explained, “there’s been no research affirming these beliefs.”

The good news for those who avoid gluten due to celiac, sensitivity, or because they just feel better when they avoid the stuff? As of 2013, official regulations dictating gluten-free standards are in effect.  So if you see that labeling, you can take it at face value.  Just don’t read more into it…



This word is associated with wholesome and healthy… but it really refers to how the agricultural products were produced, grown, or raised.  When it comes to plant life, that means no conventional pesticides, forbidden synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, etc.; for meat, poultry, and eggs, it means the animals can’t be given antibiotics or growth hormones.  Many studies have shown that organic foods may have certain health benefits, while others have found none.

The important thing to remember is that just because a food is organic does not mean that the food is good for you — organic brownies, burgers, pizza, milkshakes, and more can still pile on the pounds (resulting in other kinds of health risks). Read the nutritional panels.  On the bright side, the USDA does regulate what can and cannot be considered organic. (At least that’s what we’re told!)

TAKE HOME – Read the nutritional labels, watch your portion sizes and try to aim for whole, natural, unprocessed foods!

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