Decoding Nutrition Labels

Many companies use deceptive but legal loopholes to hide the unhealthy nature of the foods they are selling. Here are some common package proclamations to look out for:

  • Health claims: Foods are not authorized to treat diseases, so be suspicious of any food label that claims to be the next wonder drug. No, Cheerios should not be a substitute for cholesterol-lowering drugs.

  • Flavored: Both natural and artificial flavors are made in laboratories. Natural flavors are not necessarily healthier than artificial. For example, the natural flavor of coconut is not from an actual coconut, but from the bark of a tree in Malaysia.

  • Drink and cocktail: The FDA requires that the amount of juice be labeled on a package when it claims to contain juice. But even a product labeled 100 percent juice could be a mixture of cheaper juices, like apple juice and white grape juice.

  • Pure: Products claiming to be 100% pure, such as orange juice, can be doctored with flavor packs for aroma and taste.

  • Nectar: According to the FDA, nectar is just a fancy name for “not completely juice.” Watch out for high fructose corn syrup in nectars.

  • Fat free: PAM and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter cooking sprays are fat free if used in the super minuscule serving sizes recommended. Even then it’s not fat free, it’s just below the amount that the FDA requires to be identified on labels.

  • Sugar free: This designation means free of sucrose, not other sugar alcohols that carry calories from carbohydrates but are not technically sugar. Sugar free does not mean calorie free.

The moral of this lesson is to read ingredient labels carefully. If you are interested, Look Good Naked offers grocery store tours to help you spot products that could be harmful for you. Contact Sara at for more information about grocery store tours.