This is a topic which I feel very strongly about. Too many times I see the shock onpeople’s faces when I tell them what’s really in a ‘healthy’ product. There are masterminds planted behind some of the advertising we see on packages. How can they make a product which isn’t healthy be perceived as healthy? They utilise natural packaging and clever wording to to achieve this.
However, we need to be smarter than these geniuses, we need to dig deeper and read the packaging for what the product really is.
During this post I will point out my top tips for reading food labels:
1. Sugar - always read the ingredients to look for hidden sugars. The reason they’re often referred to as hidden sugars is because they aren’t always under the word sugar. Sugar has hundreds of names. The most popular ones include: sugar, glucose, glucose syrup, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, cane sugar, cane juice, barley malt, agave, rice syrup, evaporated cane syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, molasses, raw sugar, golden sugar, golden syrup, corn syrup, corn sugar, evaporated fruit juice, refiner’s syrup, sorghum syrup, honey, glucose solids, date sugar, date syrup, coconut sugar, coconut crystals, coconut nectar, brown rice syrup and beet syrup. Just to name a few, the list is endless. So please be careful and read the ingredients. It’s more than likely to find a variety of these sugar ingredients all in one product.
Often a product will be labeled as sugar free and will then be packed with honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar. At the end of the day it is still sugar so don’t just trust the wording, really scrutinize the ingredients.
2. ‘Natural’ - the word natural on a packing means absolutely nothing, nada, zilch! In order for a product to be marketed as ‘made from natural ingredients’ only 10% of the ingredients have to be natural. When you turn the pack over to read the ingredients and there is a whole load of words which you can’t pronounce and have absolutely no idea what they are or what they would look like in their original form then you’ll quickly realise that the product is by no means natural!
3. Labels - just because the packaging shouts gluten-free, sugar-free or vegan it doesn’t mean it is a healthy product. These labels do not equate to health. In fact the free-from isle is often rammed with some of the worst products because they remove the gluten and pack it with a whole load of chemicals in an attempt to replace the gluten. Similarly vegan means that the product is free from animal products but it is likely to still be packed with sugar, additives and other nasties and as for sugar-free, I have mentioned that above. However, I wanted to add sugar is also often replaced with artificial sweeteners (which require a whole other article, but for now stear clear!)
4. Positioning is everything- once you’ve got to reading the ingredients, you should be aware that the way in which they are laid out equate to the weight of that ingredient in the product. For example if sugar is the first ingredient then you’ll know that the key ingredients in the product is sugar.
The three tips outlined about all come down to one key thing - don’t read the buzz-words, read the ingredients and make a decision for yourself.