04 Aug Understanding Nutrition Claims
There are many claims marketers can make on food products that have little to no meaning. Food companies want you to think their product is best, so they often try and mislead you. Many products on the market have drastic claims on their label, though only few are meaningful. Although this can leave you confused and frustrated, understanding what these claims mean is your best bet. Here is a list of the do’s and the don’ts to pay attention to when it comes to claims on food labels.
Do pay attention to a label that says “organic.” Only USDA certified products can use the organic label. This means that the product was grown or produced without the use of harmful chemicals or genetically modified organisms.
Don’t pay attention to a label that reads “cage-free.” There is no certification from the FDA or USDA for this claim. If a farmer has their chickens out for only a short amount of time per day, they can claim their chickens are “cage-free.” This claim should have no impact on your purchase
Do pay attention to a label that reads “heart healthy.” This means the product contains ingredients, such as soluble fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol. This health claim is approved by the FDA. Although this claim isn’t not and end-all-be-all, it can be helpful for those with a high LDL (or bad cholesterol).
Do pay attention to a label that says “fat-free.” This means that the product you’re buying does not contain any fat. This health claim is approved by the FDA. Though, when fat is taken out of products, sugar or other additives are usually added in its place. Just because the product has fewer calories does not mean it is better for you. Be sure to read through the ingredients of both the fat-containing and fat-free products to make sure it’s what you really want.
Don’t pay attention to the claim “fresh.” Like “cage-free,” any marketer or food producer can use this claim without approval from the USDA or FDA. Again, marketers want you to think you are getting the best of the best, even if the product has been shipped from overseas to get to your local grocery store. If you truly want a fresh product, head to your local farm or farmers market where you speak to the farmer who actually grew the food.
Use these guidelines the next time you’re at the supermarket to help you make more informed and healthier choices. If you have any other claims you would like to learn about, leave a comment below.
Alexandra Orlan will be a junior dietetics major this fall at the University of Delaware. She hopes to become a registered dietitian and use her passion for food and health to better others’ lives.