As you progress with medical weight loss in East Brunswick, deciphering the labels of many “healthy” food packages may not be as black and white as the obvious health benefits of your OPTIFAST products. Manufacturers know what they’re doing when they neatly package seemingly healthy foods with labels featuring bolded phrases like “no fat” or “no added sugar”—they’re targeting you.
People trying to eat healthy and manage their food intake often become confused upon entering the grocery store as they’re bombarded with hundreds of deceptive food labels. Figuring out what’s healthy and what’s not can leave you frustrated and more confused than ever. Don’t worry, you’re not alone—nearly 60 percent of consumers have a hard time deciphering nutrition labels. Sometimes, it helps to have a better understanding of what food labels mean when they highlight terms like low-fat, nonfat and no added sugar on the front of their labels.
Here’s the truth about some common misleading labels to help you separate the healthy from the hype.
Misleading Label: No Sugar Added
Many people fall prey to this common food label misconception and are unaware that no added sugar doesn’t mean the product is sugar free. However, many foods displaying this label such as fruit products, milk, cereals and more all contain natural sugars with no additional sugar additives. Also, many no sugar added products can still contain added sugar substitutes such as maltodextrin, which is a carbohydrate. Some carbohydrates are considered simple sugars and can raise blood sugar levels in people who suffer from diabetes. No sugar added doesn’t mean a product is calorie or carbohydrate free.
Misleading Label: Sugar Free
Sugar free products aren’t always sugar free—this label just implies the product has less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving. However, just because a product is sugar free doesn’t mean it’s necessarily low in calories. Many sugar free products actually have more calories than their regular versions. Manufacturers also substitute real sugar for sugar alcohols which can cause diarrhea if too much is consumed. Though these sugar alcohols are lower in calories, they still don’t make the food item low calorie overall.
Misleading Label: Fat Free
This may be the most misleading label of all, and plenty of unassuming shoppers tend to fall for it. Once the food market was flooded with research on the detrimental health effects of saturated and trans fats, products began to over emphasize their fat-free claims. Unfortunately, many consumers aren’t aware that fat free products tend to contain just as many calories as their full-fat counterparts. Studies show that when people are under the impression they’re eating healthier foods, they’re more inclined to consume more of that product. Many fat free products are also loaded with sugars just as many sugar free products are often loaded with fat. These are just some sneaky tricks manufacturers use to seduce you into buying their seemingly healthy products.
Misleading Label: Cholesterol Free
Some patients in medical weight loss programs may already suffer from high cholesterol due to their past unhealthy lifestyle or genetic susceptibility. However, many people don’t know that cholesterol free products aren’t actually entirely cholesterol free. To display this common label, the food item must contain less than 2 milligrams of cholesterol per serving, while low cholesterol products must contain 20 milligrams or less per serving. What’s more, food items that claim to have reduced cholesterol or less cholesterol only need to have 25 percent less than their comparable counterparts.
It’s hard enough to navigate the grocery store aisles to differentiate the healthy food from the rest, but throw in these misleading labels and things can quickly become more difficult. One rule of thumb many healthy shoppers follow is to avoid the center aisles of the store altogether. These are the aisles where many highly processed, baked and frozen products seem to hide. Instead, try to stick to the outer perimeter of the store as this is where your fresh vegetables and fruits are most accessible. If you’re having trouble determining if foods are right for your medical weight loss diet, never hesitate to ask your medical weight loss doctor or nutritionist for advice.