You’re at the grocery store, surrounded by options for what to buy for your family. To help make the best choice, you look at the packaging, more specifically, at the labels and the words on those labels to decide what is or isn’t healthy. Makes sense right? Except that these labels can be incredibly misleading.
I’ve written before about the seemingly contradictory “100% juice – with added ingredients“. There’s also the ubiquitous use of “natural” and “healthy”, that are used almost entirely for marketing purposes and are pretty much meaningless when it comes to making an informed decision.
Food labeling has recently been in the news as Kraft Foods was allowed to put The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ “Kids Eat Right” label on their American cheese singles. You know… the little pieces of “cheese” wrapped with two pieces of cellophane… You’ve got to give credit to the marketing folks at Kraft for this one. For many people, seeing that logo on the cheese is like getting an endorsement that it’s healthy for your kids. The problem though, is that the Academy wasn’t actually endorsing the product, they were allowing Kraft to use the label after Kraft agreed to pay for scholarships and public education campaigns. So it wasn’t that the cheese is healthier than other alternatives, it’s that Kraft paid to use the logo, and unfortunately, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics let them. Fortunately, the backlash has been swift and it is reported that Kraft won’t be using the logo for long.
The whole issue does bring up a bigger point though. How do we know what to choose when the labels can be so consistently misleading? I don’t have the best answer to this. In an ideal world, food companies wouldn’t be allowed to use misleading marketing practices. Given the huge amounts of money to be made, I doubt this is realistic though. Your best bet is to look beyond the flashy packaging. Turn the product over and look at the nutrition label. There are actually pretty strict rules for these. Look at the ingredients. Make an informed choice. Unfortunately, this can take a lot longer. But it’s the best for us in the long run.
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