In recent years many front of packaging labels have included symbols logos and specific words that claim the product is a “healthy choice “or “healthy for you.“
These claims are not developed or backed by the government, but instead by the food producers as a marketing tool.
While it is required that the information is truthful and not misleading, consumer should not rely only on general health claims to make informed choices, advises Health Canada.
Here are a few of the most popular claims on some of your favourite foods:
• Made with whole grain
Look for foods made with 100 per cent whole grain or compare the fibre content to a similar food.
Choose the food that contains the most fibre.
• Fat-free, sugar-free, or salt-free
Labeling a food as “free” of a certain nutrient, whether it be salt, sugar or fat, means it has none, or a “physiologically inconsequential” amount of that nutrient.
If the package says “calorie-free,” the item has fewer than five calories per serving.
For sugar or fat, this means the food has fewer than 0.5 grams per serving.
But be careful. A food label could say fat-free but still contain a lot of calories from sugar. If you’re watching your weight, you should also look at the total calories.
• No trans fats
Even if a package advertises no trans fats, again be careful. Products carrying this label can still have up to half a gram of trans fat per serving.
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that raise your LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” kind) and increase your risk of heart disease.
There are two types of nutrition claims on food —nutrient content claims and health claims.
The nutrient content claims you might see are such as “a good source of calcium.”
Meanwhile, health claims are statements about the helpful effects of certain food. Here is an example: “A diet containing food high in potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure.”
Looking for claims like “excellent source of fibre,” “high in vitamin A” or “an excellent source of calcium” are great health claims, but only highlight a few key nutrients of foods.
You should still refer to the nutrition facts table to see the complete picture of the product, including the list of all the ingredients.
Reading the ingredient list is important because it can help you see just how healthy the food is regardless of marketing claims on the package.