In a survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) released in May, we discovered the hard truth about the typical grocery store shopper: we’re confused, and we’re spending lots of money on things we think are good for us. The truth is, with constantly changing nutrition advice and savvy food marketing, it’s easy to get fooled. Here then, is the truth about some of the more confusing label descriptions.
The Perception: Lower fat means few calories, so less chance of gaining weight, right?
The Reality: Low fat doesn’t necessarily mean fewer calories. In fact, you may end up eating more than you would with a full fat alternative.
The Verdict: Read the nutrition facts and ingredient list to find out what they’re using to replace the fat.
The Perception: Organic foods are healthier, safer, and better for the environment.
The Reality: In the US, the USDA organic certification label is t given to products that “rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.” That means three-year’s worth of pesticide-free soil for produce, and antibiotic- and hormone-free meats that are raised in conditions consistent with their natural environments.
While the organic industry is valued at $5.5 billion, with sales up 72 percent since 2008, the organic label remains controversial: many smaller farmers who practice organic methods can’t afford to keep up with industrial agriculture, and the industry hasn’t yet adapted to new farming approaches like hydroponic growing.
The Verdict: If you want to go organic, it’s likely best to get products from your local farmer’s markets and community gardens.
The Perception: All-natural foods are better for you and the environment.
The Reality: All-natural isn’t organic. While The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulate organic foods, all-natural foods remain unregulated. That means there’s no guarantee that an all-natural product has fewer modified ingredients or cleaner production practices than any other option.
The Verdict: Buy locally sourced organic, or buy foods made with whole, healthy ingredients.