Food labels

Be wary of food label terms ‘made with’ and ‘natural’

 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When is “super” not so super-duper and “natural” not the natural choice? It’s hard enough deciding which foods to throw in the grocery cart or pick from restaurant menus. Now health experts warn that common nutrition definitions can be exaggerated, misleading or false.

Called “leanwashing” by Austin-based EnviroMedia Social Marketing with input from public health and food professionals, their list of words to watch out for include “made with” and “natural.” Dr. Stephen Pont of the Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity, an adviser for the Leanwashing Index, says, “When it comes to ‘natural,’ don’t forget ‘all-natural sugar’ and cane sugar are added sugars that add empty calories to whatever you, or your kids, are eating.”

The group doesn’t like “made with” because it doesn’t tell the consumer if there’s enough of a healthy ingredient in a product to contribute a significant concentration of nutrients.

TERM LIMITS

“Super food” may be a super popular marketing term, but there is no legal definition. It usually refers to foods that contain an impressive concentration of a nutrient such as omega-3 fatty acids in salmon or a food that’s one-stop shopping for a number of nutrients such as kale’s combination of vitamins and minerals. But be super careful about succumbing to “super food” claims.

Nutrition experts are all for portion control, but the Leanwashing Index warns against grabbing 100-calorie packs of snack foods without considering, for instance, a 100-calorie pack of baby carrots serves up more nutrition than 100-calorie packs of cookies.

WHOLE TRUTH

The phrase “whole grain” continues to be wholly misunderstood by many.

Should you hold out for foods made with 100 percent whole grain?

No, says Cynthia Harriman of the Whole Grains Council: “The tricky part is most people get the majority of their whole grains by eating foods made with a mix of whole and refined grains.”

The Whole Grain Stamp logo, developed by the council, identifies food products with a minimum of 8 grams of whole-grain ingredients per serving. Harriman says, “If we tell people to be perfect, how can we encourage them to move closer to eating a healthier diet?”

Another good point is high-fiber bran cereals are healthy but cannot be classified whole grain because they contain just the bran layer of the cereal.

“We used to say that fiber was the big benefit when eating whole grains,” Harriman adds. “Now we know that the rest of the grain provides all kinds of phytonutrients to reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel health.”

Paying attention to vocabulary is important, but doing the math is what really makes the difference when improving eating habits.

For instance, aim for three servings of whole grains totaling about 50 grams per day. That’s as easy as eating one half of a whole-grain English muffin, a slice of whole-grain bread and a 1/3-cup of brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.

Read more Health stories from the Miami Herald

  • Ask Nancy

    Ask Nancy: My mother won’t listen to her doctors

    Q. My sister and I are constantly taking my 86-year-old mother to the doctor for her real and/or imagined problems and the doctor will make suggestions or prescribe treatments. She either disagrees with what the doctor says and requests to see a different doctor, or decides that she doesn’t want to do the treatment or take the medicine. How do we get her to comply with what the doctors prescribe?

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">OPERATION:</span> Dr. Dean Hertzler performed a nine-hour surgery on 6-year-old Grace Carr of Dania Beach to remove a large brain tumor after an eye exam raised concerns. Physicians Assistant Lindsey Seminara poses with him and Grace.

    Eye health

    Eyes are window to potential problems in the body

    Eye exams can help reveal a range of health problems, including allergies, diabetes — and cancer.

  • Fit Tip

    Fit tip: Eat more mangoes

    Q: I love mangoes but they are so sweet they must be bad for me. Is this true?

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category