How To Read Food Labels – Part Two

by James Kerrison on August 12, 2009

In the first part of this series we looked at some of the basics of reading food labels. If you haven’t already make sure you read part one.

Let’s have a look at some of the tricks that come out of the marketing departments of the big food corporations. Remember their main concern is their profits and not your health. That’s why the following food labels can sometimes be misleading and get you to think you are doing the right thing when your not.

Cholesterol Free – Dietary cholesterol, the cholesterol you have in your food, doesn’t impact that greatly on your blood cholesterol. Yes you want to keep your blood cholesterol down, but this isn’t to be confused with eating cholesterol free foods. The other misleading part of this claim is that dietary cholesterol comes from animal products, not plant products. So even vegetable oil, whilst it is still fat, has never contained cholesterol and never will. The same goes for vegetable and canola based margarines.

Oven Baked or Toasted – Sounds better than fried doesn’t it? But chances are that these foods, especially cereals and biscuits with this claim, have been drenched in oil before they were baked. And chances are the oil being used is going to be a cheap and nasty, processed vegetable oil.

Reduced Fat – This basically means that it has less fat than its full fat cousin. Once again this sounds good, but less fat doesn’t mean low fat. Dairy products such as cream and cheese can still be as high as 20% fat even in the reduced fat form. So reduced fat may be better than the full fat variety, but it’s best to double check the label.

Low Fat – Technically ‘Low Fat’ products contain less than 3% (3 grams per 100 grams) of total fat. However the products that generally carry this claim are sugary sweets, lollies and confectionary. They are going to be full of sugar which is going to be just as bad for your waistline.

Light or Lite – Now this one is a doosey! If a product claims to be ‘light’ it may be in reference to the taste, colour or texture. In fact there is no nutritional regulation on the term ‘light’ so you had best be checking that label to see what’s really going on. The usual bad boys here are potato chips which you really should be avoiding anyway if you are looking to lose some belly fat!

I hope this has made you life and subsequent trips to the supermarket less of a minefield. When in doubt go for lean protein and vegetables, but when you aren’t make sure you read those damn labels!

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