5 Food Labeling Myths You Are Falling For

Food Labeling Myths www.nuttynutritionandfitness.com

Have you heard about the lawsuit over Cheerios Protein? General Mills is being sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest because Cheerios Protein doesn’t actually contain as much protein as the front of the package claims. Not to mention, when you eat cheerios Protein you also get a lot more sugar and calories. Sometimes we are tempted to buy a product just based on that front of the box health claim, but often times those claims are misleading. Here are five food labels you should think twice about.

1. Protein. We are a nation obsessed with protein. I also bought that box of Cheerios Protein because I figured, hey, Cheerios are good, Cheerios with a little more protein must be better, right? Wrong! The problem is that when foods have protein added to them they don’t taste good. And no one wants to eat bad tasting food, no matter what health claim it has. Enter our lovely friend’s sugar and salt. In order to mask that yucky synthetic protein taste, General Mills adds sugar, and lots of it. I’m talking 17 grams of sugar versus one (in original Cheerios). I’m not trying to hate on General Mills, I actually love cereal. I’m simply saying that you shouldn’t buy a product just because it is high in protein (because it is likely high in other things too).

2. Clean-Eating. Health nuts love to eat “clean.” They also love to talk about clean eating and post pictures on Instagram of their #cleaneating #paleo meals. While I do appreciate healthy eating, I do not appreciate calling your food clean. Your kitchen counter should be clean, not your food. Sally at Real Mom Nutrition understands exactly how I feel about this subject. Check out her post “Why I don’t Love the Term Clean Eating.”

3. Hormone-Free. If you see the label hormone-free on chicken you are being tricked. All chicken in the United States is free of added hormones (of course, chickens produce their own hormones in a similar way as humans). Additive hormones are banned by the FDA in poultry and have been for the last fifty years. Yes chickens are far bigger than they were 50 years ago but this is primarily due to selective breeding (1).

4. Natural. I have written about the problem with the natural label before, and I will probably write about it again. There is no standard definition of what natural is or isn’t. To me, an apple picked off of a tree is natural, but to others, grape flavored aspartame water is natural. You decide. But I implore you, do not let the front of the package decide for you.

Aquaball naturally flavored water drink
Aquaball naturally flavored water drink

5. Sugar-free. If something is labeled as sugar-free they likely are not deceiving you. The problem is sugar-free products are usually heavy in artificial sweeteners. There is a lot of mixed research on artificial sweeteners (2). Some studies claim they can be an effective weight loss aid, while many conclude the exact opposite. My take on artificial sweeteners is proceed with caution. It is important to remember that just because something is labeled sugar-free does not give you the green light for an all-out binge.

What do you look for on the label? Have you been fooled by any of these products or claims? I would love to hear from you!



Warning: Diet Soda Makes You Fat

The Truth About <a href=#DietSoda www.nuttynutritionandfitness.com” width=”424″ height=”225″ />Do you drink diet soda? According to a new study you probably shouldn’t, because it will make you fat. Or at least, fatter. This study found that older adults (65+) who drank diet soda had greater increases in waist circumference over a ten year period than those who didn’t. Quick! Start chuggin’ the regular stuff, because diet soda is most definitely the greater evil of the two. Right? Not quite. What the study failed to mention is that the participant’s diet was not controlled for. Meaning that, the group who drank diet soda, probably had poorer eating habits and consumed more calories than those not drinking diet soda. Thus they gained more weight, their stomachs got bigger, and it likely had very little to do with what type of soda they were drinking.

There is no plausible biological mechanism for how diet soda can make people gain weight directly. It has zero sugar and zero calories. If somebody were to live only on diet soda they would starve to death way before they ever developed diabetes. The problem with diet soda (and probably all artificially sweetened beverages) is that many people give themselves the green light to eat whatever they want when they drink diet soda. It’s as if diet soda is viewed as a negative calorie food. Drinking a diet soda does not undo the calories consumed in a cheeseburger or french fries. For an intelligent and hilarious explanation of the diet soda phenomenon check out this article.

Diet Coke causes weight gain
image from keepitfreshkeepitgreen.blogspot.com

In contrast, there have been a few published studies where diet soda has aided in weight loss. In one study participants were enrolled in a weight loss program and randomly assigned to either a group that was only allowed to drink water, or a group allowed to drink artificially sweetened beverages (including diet soda). The water group lost an average of 9 pounds where the diet group lost an average of 13 pounds. Shocking. It’s possible that the participants felt less restricted in their diet when they were allowed to drink diet soda, leading to better adherence to the diet overall. Interestingly, the participants in the diet soda group ranked their hunger lower than the water group. These results indicate that diet soda could actually enhance weight loss, as opposed to causing it. One important caveat to consider is that this study was funded by the American Beverage Association.

What about aspartame? Many people like to tell me that diet soda is worse for you than regular soda. Oh really? If you can show me some actual studies on that (from a peer-reviewed journal) I will believe you. Until then, I believe the abundance of research that shows that it is safe.  Even those claiming to be sensitive to aspartame always fail miserably in placebo controlled trials. It turns out, people sensitive to aspartame are actually just sensitive to living.

One problem I do have with diet soda is that when people get used to drinking something sweet (artificially or regularly sweetened) it can sometimes makes them crave more sweets (whether that be more sweetened food or more sweetened beverage). If you live on diet soda and never drink plain water, your tastes buds become recalibrated to desiring a higher threshold of sweetness . All of a sudden your cereal is not sweet enough, you are adding more sugar to your coffee, and you are left wondering why that cookie tastes so plain. Not to mention that artificial sweeteners have been in widespread use since the 1980’s, and obesity and diabetes have done nothing but skyrocket since then. Clearly, diet drinks are not the solution to long-term health.

My personal opinion is that if you really enjoy diet soda it’s okay to drink occasionally. However, it should be viewed as more of a “treat” than your every day go-to beverage. What should your go-to beverage be? Water. I know it’s not exciting or sexy, but it’s the truth. Stay tuned for my next article on how to make drinking water sexy.