Food labels can sometimes be misleading. Kane In Your Corner explains what to look out for.

Amy Keating, a registered dietician with Consumer Reports, says sometimes consumers may perceive a product to be healthier than they actually are.

Walt Kane

Apr 15, 2024, 9:34 AM

Updated 44 days ago

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Figuring out how to navigate the various marketing claims and make the best choices for your family when it comes to food can be complicated. As research from Consumer Reports shows, healthy-sounding food labels may not always be a good indication.
Amy Keating, a registered dietician with Consumer Reports, tells Kane In Your Corner that some products “have what we call a ‘health halo’ and consumers can perceive them as much healthier than they actually are.”
Take the claim of “no cholesterol” frequently found on products like vegetable oil or margarine. Keating says the claim is factually true, but only because cholesterol is only found in animal products.
“Putting it on one product and not all products is giving the impression that that brand is healthier than another brand of a product that never had cholesterol to begin with,” Keating says.
Gluten-free products have become trendy, and people may sometimes need to eaten gluten free for health reasons. But Keating says those who are consuming those products because they believe it’s healthier in general could be surprised learn they may have less nutritional value than equivalent products containing gluten.
Consumer Reports also warns about general phrases like “lightly sweetened.” While phrases like sugar-free or reduced-sugar have specific meanings, “lightly sweetened” is a subjective term and products bearing that label may actually contain large amounts of added sugar.
Keating also cautions against putting too much faith in “uncured” meat. She says the products typically will still contain nitrates, just like cured meat. The nitrate just comes from a natural source, typically celery seed.
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