There are all kinds of terms that turn up on food labels to entice us to buy a particular product. But how do we know this means they’re any better for us than another brand? Here are some of the words and phrases used that we often assume equal healthy foods, but really have hidden issues.
Multi-grain breads sounds good, but it may not actually contain heart-healthy whole grains. If the package says “refined flour”, it may be time to look elsewhere. Refined flour has been ground without the skin or husk, so is easier to digest. That isn’t a good though though, because that’s the part that contains most of the fibre!
Sports drinks are great if you’re taking part in strenuous activity, as they contain electrolytes which can restore the water balance within your body more efficiently than plain water. But beware of these when you’re only doing light exercise, as the calories in the extra sugar content may outweight the benefits.
Branded pasta sauce jars often have fancy TV adverts showing a healthy family enjoying a healthy meal. But while tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, these sauces are also high in added salt and sugar, making them far less healthy than a sauce you can make yourself in just a couple of minutes longer.
Gluten-free products are a godsend for anyone with a gluten or wheat intolerance, but many people assume they’re a healthier option. Unfortunately this is rarely the case – the vast majority of gluten-free products are loaded with added sugars and are often higher in calories than their ‘regular’ counterparts. Hopefully, as the market for these foods increases we’ll start to see some healthier options, too.
Anything labelled fat-free should always be compared to it’s full-fat counterpart. While fat-free sounds like a wonderful concept, removing all the fat also removes most of the taste from many products, which is replaced with added sugars and other less desirable ingredients. Fat-free doesn’t necessarily mean lower in calories, either. It’s often better to choose a small portion of a full-fat version of something like yoghurt rather than assume that you can enjoy as much of the fat-free one as you like.
‘Boxed’ rice – the kind that promises it only takes two minutes to cook. This kind of rice tends to have a high sodium content in order to preserve it. Another product that has a very high salt content is canned soup, and while fresh soups still contain additives, they’re at least healthier than the canned varieties.
We all like foods that are tasty and convenient. But taking a few minutes to read the labels on branded products can help us all to make better choices and ensure we’re really getting what we think we’re paying for.