How do you know whether or not what you are eating is healthy for you? Food packaging can be quite confusing and misleading. Manufacturers of food use the words “natural” and “healthy” to coax you into buying their product. Unfortunately these words or the pictures on the packages of food are marketing ploys to get you to buy their product but their claims are often not validated or even true.
Two Cornell University food packaging studies suggest labels can be deceptive. In one study researchers learned that by food manufactures simply using the color green in their packaging, shoppers perceived these foods as healthier. Even a candy bar with a green packaging was considered healthier than those who used other colors. (1) A second study looked at the perception of the word “organic” in foods. Shoppers viewed the packaging with the stamp “organic” as healthier, lower in calories and more nutritious without ever comparing food labels or ingredients. (2)
Dont believe everything you read, especially on the front of of the packaging. If you want to know what you are eating and if it is healthy for you, I recommend focusing on one thing…the INGREDIENTS! Everything you need to know about the foods you are eating can be found in the ingredients. Here are a couple of food rules I suggest:
Avoid ingredients a 3rd grader would have difficulty pronouncing
Avoid sugar in at least the first 3 ingredients
Avoid food colorings, dyes, chemicals, preservatives, additives
Choose organic products listed in the ingredients
Eat foods that will spoil
Bottom Line: Know what you are eating and read the ingredients. Don’t believe a marketing tagline or rely on a picture of what the food is suppose to look like. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, it is likely your body will not either, even if it has the word healthy in it!
(1) Health Communication published online Feb 27, 2013;
(2) Food Quality and Preference, published online Feb 9, 2013
Copyright © Jaime Coffey Martinez, MS RD Nutrition CPR, LLC