03/03/2012 02:57 EST | Updated 05/03/2012 05:12 EDT

Can Food Labels Be Misleading?


How often do you walk through your supermarket and read luring food labels that convince you that you're eating healthier with terms such as lower sodium, lower fat, reduced calories, omega-3s, "Lite", organic or natural? And that's only the beginning! Food manufacturers are jumping on the health bandwagon so you will purchase their products. These descriptions may be legally allowed, but often when you read between the lines you will find you're not getting the entire story.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Studies from these healthy fats show that they may reduce the risk of heart disease, stoke, cancer, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Some studies suggest you need about 3.5 grams daily. The best choices are one quarter cup walnuts, 3 oz salmon or 1 ½ tsp of flaxseed oil. So how about Omega eggs, Omega margarine or yogourt with Omegas? One kind, Naturegg, has 0.4 g, which would mean you would need to eat eight eggs daily. Probably not a wise choice. Becel Omega3 Plus margarine contains 0.6 g per 2 tsp. You'd need ½ cup daily! Don't think so! BioBest yogurt has 0.3 g per small container, but has 13 g of sugar which is equivalent to 3 tsp. Hmmm! That salmon looks a lot healthier!

"Light", "Lite"

How about "Light" or "Lite" oil? I always thought it meant lower in calories and fat. Nope! If you read the fine print, it can refer to colour, texture or flavour. Calories and fat can be identical to regular oil.


"Natural" is the new buzzword. Technically "natural" means a product does not contain artificial ingredients. But deli meat today is being called "natural" with reference to hot dogs, bacon, ham and sliced meat. There are no artificial ingredients but there is "celery extract," a natural food additive that contains nitrates, which become nitrites in food which has been linked to an increase of certain cancers. So is this misleading? I think so. These companies may be forced by the federal government to label that celery extract is a natural nitrite. At least the consumer can now make a more educated decision. Remember just because a food is natural doesn't make it healthy. And besides when have bacon, hot dogs and deli meat ever been considered healthy?


The most popular description has to be the word "smart." Smartfood Popcorn, Weight Watchers Smart Ones, Smart Fiesta Taco Kit, Smart Lunch, and Kraft Dinner Smart. Boy, if you eat all of these, you should have your I.Q. retested! Smartfood Popcorn has 270 calories, 16 g of fat and 400 mg sodium for three cups. A normal serving of popcorn is at least 8-10 cups. Weight Watchers Smart Ones -- Salisbury Steak may be lower in calories and fat but the 760 mg of sodium is half your day's intake and there are no significant vitamins or minerals. Kraft Dinner Smart has a half serving of vegetables in each portion, which comes out to about ¼ cup. Not very much! Also, one serving, which is ¾ cup, has over 400 mg of sodium, which is close to half a day's worth for kids. Smart Fiesta Taco Kit has palm oil as the second ingredient, which is a saturated fat, and the seasoning has hydrogenated soy bean oil, which is an unhealthy trans fat.

So hopefully some food label confusion has been cleared up. All you have to do is read between the lines and don't believe everything you see or taste!