5 Misleading Food Labels To Look Out For

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It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you go grocery shopping – I mean, who really needs five kinds of chunky peanut butter?  I do, of course, but when deciding which brand to buy, who isn’t somewhat swayed by the phrases on the label? “All Natural,” “No Sugar Added,” and “Fat Free” all sound great, but most of these phrases are designed to do just that – sound great, and not much else. Next time you’re shopping for your pantry, here are some phrases that should make you think twice.

“Made with real fruit”

Just because something has fruit in it doesn’t make it healthy.  While companies can put “made with real fruit” on the box if there is fruit in the product, there isn’t any law saying how much fruit is required for the label to be legal. You’ll find this label on snacks with high sugar that have fruit concentrate instead of real fruit.  You’re better off looking at the fat and cholesterol content on the nutrition label instead. Or better yet, just opt for an actual piece of fruit.


Surprisingly, a product as labeled “light” usually refers to the flavor of a product rather than the actual ingredients. In some cases, a light product may be better for you than the original, but that refers to fat content instead of calories. For example, “light olive oil” doesn’t typically have less calories than “regular” olive oil, and it isn’t required to in order to be classified as “light.”


A label that became popular when saturated fats became dangerous, “fat-free” is by no means a synonym for the word “healthy.”  Fat-free products usually have exponentially higher levels of sugar than their full-fat counterparts (and conversely, sugar-free products tend to have lots of fat).  When shopping, compare the nutrition labels of a fat-free and a full-fat version side-by-side to be sure you know what you’re buying.

“No salt added”

This doesn’t mean that your food is salt-free, as many foods contain natural sodium.  Butter, sauces, grains, and other snack foods already have high salt content, so be wary of anything that says “light in sodium,” “lightly salted,” “low sodium,” “reduced salt,” etc.  Surprisingly, all of these labels have specifically different meanings according to the government, so what’s “low in sodium” isn’t equal to having “reduced salt.”


Similar to the phrase “all natural,” an organic label is more up to interpretation.  According to the USDA, anything labeled organic means that 95% or more of the ingredients must have been processed or grown without synthetic ingredients, while something labeled as “made with organic ingredients” requires 70% on ingredients to fit that standard instead.  Also – organic foods can still be high in calories and full of salt, which means that despite being organic it may not be the healthiest option.

If you ever see a label that you’re unsure you can trust, always take a look at the nutrition label on the side of the packaging.  There are several federal regulations specific to these labels alone, so if nothing else you can be sure that these labels are trustworthy.

Alex Wilson is a freelance writer interested in fashion, lifestyle, and all forms of pop culture. Her writing has been featured in various digital and print publications, including USA Today and Long Island Pulse. When not writing, Alex can be found testing new recipes, exploring new neighborhoods, and window shopping. She hopes to someday travel to all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica).


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