Obseity epidemic: Don't judge a book by its cover!

Written By Elise Matthews

Don’t judge a book by its cover!



All-natural, sugar-free, fat free, free range, made with whole grains, zero trans-fat, gluten free, made with real fruit, these are all promises plastered on the labels at the grocery store.  But what exactly are you getting? 


 The problem is that food producers take a lot of liberty with marketing and you better be prepared to look at the label.   I can’t tell you how much longer it takes for me to pick out an item from the shelf of the grocery store because I now read all the ingredients to see EXACTLY what I’m getting.  It’s gotten so frustrating lately, that I’ve opted to make certain foods to be sure that we’re not getting loaded down with unnecessary preservatives, thickeners, corn, sugar, etc. 


Spending time in the relative food desert of Columbus, MS I’ve started making yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese from best organic because the options that we have include carrageenan, modified corn starch, maltodextrin, carob bean gum, sugar, and fructose.


 My challenge to you this week is for you to look at the ingredients of EVERYTHING (that you can) going into your cart.  You might be surprised at the extra stuff you’re getting!  This extra stuff guarantees the foods you are eating will taste good and not spoil before their expiration date.


Here are some healthy marketing labels and things you should be aware of:

  • Made with real fruit – Required to have some real fruit but can still be loaded down with added sugar and corn syrup
  • Lightly sweetened – The FDA has definitions for reduced sugar, no added sugar, and sugar free but lightly sweetened is a marketer’s dream with no regulation
  • Cholesterol Free – Can still have cholesterol (up to 20 mg) and reduced cholesterol only needs to have 25% less cholesterol than comparable products
  • Made with Organic Ingredients – must have a minimum of 70% of all ingredients that meet the organic standard
  • 2% milk – Did you know whole milk only has 3.25% fat????
  • Light – the fat content is required be 50% less than the amount found in comparable products, but beware!  Food producers will often increase the sugar or salt content to make up for the loss of flavor provided by the missing fat.  Also, be wary of HOW that product became light. For example, light coconut milk is just diluted so you’re paying the same amount for less.
  • Free range – This one got me.  The free-range requirement simply must give the chickens exposure to the outdoors.  No amount of exposure or quality of outdoor experience regulations.
  • Zero Trans Fat – Zero Trans-fat can still have 0.5 grams per serving.  This stuff is so bad that the FDA ruled to eliminate it from food products.  If you have multiple servings of 0.5 grams of trans fat (ever eaten ½ a bag of chips all by yourself?) you’re still adding a significant amount to your diet.
  • Sugar free – Pretty much guarantees that it will be loaded with hormone disrupting fact sugar products.
  • All natural – still may contain preservatives or be injected with sodium, and have high fructose corn syrup.

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