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Food Labels Tricks

Don't Be Fooled by These "Healthy" Food Labels

When you're in a rush at the grocery store or café, you try to grab the healthiest foods you can. Unfortunately, food labels can be deceiving, especially since advertisers often say whatever it takes to get customers to buy products. Take an extra minute to read over the label and don't fall for these "healthy" phrases.

  • Light or fat-free: Salad dressings, peanut butter, beverages, chips, ice cream, and bread products — so many foods are labeled with one of these two terms. While they may contain fewer calories, it's usually because extra sugar or salt is added to make up for the lack of fat.
  • Foods with the word "salad": Salads are healthy, right? Not when they're doused in high-calorie, high-fat mayo. Skip white and creamy options like chicken or macaroni salad and stick to greens instead.
  • Whole grain, multigrain, or seven-grain: Granola bars, muffins, cereals, and bread love to shout out that they're "made with whole grains," but it doesn't mean the whole grain hasn't been altered in some way or that they don't also contain other non-whole-grain ingredients such as enriched flour. These foods also tend to contain added sugars, so check labels for that as well as calorie count.
  • Real fruit juice: You'd think juice came from fruit, but that's not always the case. While many contain a bit of real fruit juice, many bottles also throw in added sugar or corn syrup. Look for labels that say "100 percent real fruit juice."
  • Gluten-free: This just means it's made without wheat, rye, oats, or barley — it doesn't mean it's healthier than gluten-filled foods.
  • Vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free: Made without meat or other animal products, these may be lower in cholesterol, but they can still be high in sodium, sugar, or calories, so check labels.
  • Foods made with vegetables: If a food is made with veggies, then it gets the green light, right? Wrong! Veggie soups can be high in sodium; sweet potato fries, potato chips, and onion rings are still fried in oil; and carrot cake is often made with sugar and white flour. Go ahead and enjoy these bites every once in a while, but don't go overboard on foods just because they're made with vegetables.
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