If you want some insight into the food industry, take a stroll down the candy aisle of your grocery store. There, on the labels of such products as Jelly Belly, Skittles, and Jolly Rancher, you’ll see what is perhaps a surprising claim: “Fat Free.” It’s completely true, however — these empty calorie junk foods are made almost entirely of sugar and processed carbs, making them 100 percent fat free.
The point is that food manufacturers rely on you, the customer, equating “fat free” with “healthy” or “non fattening,” so you’ll forget about all the sugar their products contain. It’s a distraction technique that works like a charm! Food companies advertise what they want you to notice — and the candy aisle is just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are the top five secrets that food industry insiders don’t want you to know.
#1 Numbers can be deceiving
In large, yellow letters on the front of a box of reduced fat Club Crackers, you might find the claim, “33% Less Fat Than Original Club Crackers.” The math is accurate: The original product contains 3 grams of fat per serving, while the reduced fat version has 2 grams. So statistically, it’s a 33 percent reduction. But is it meaningful?
Remember, food manufacturers highlight what they want you to see. There’s a reason this box doesn’t brag about there being 33 percent more carbs than the original. But when they remove 1 gram of fat, they replace it with 3 grams of refined flour and sugar — hardly a healthy trade off.
#2 Corn Flakes aren’t as diabetes friendly as the logo on the box’s side panel suggests
Carb loaded Corn Flakes raise blood glucose faster and to a great extent than straight table sugar does — not a good choice for someone with diabetes, as high blood glucose is a hallmark of the disease.
For a breakfast that doesn’t raise blood glucose, try bacon and eggs with sliced avocado on top.
Take Quaker Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar, for example. Sure, the company proudly displays a heart healthy symbol on its box (due to it being low in saturated fat and cholesterol), but it still has more sugar and total carbohydrates than Froot Loops does. Neither option is a great way to start the day.
#4 The Heart and Stroke Foundation axed its Health Check program
You may remember the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check symbol, which gave a seal of approval to food products that met certain nutrition criteria (and paid enough money!). Aimed at pointing consumers toward better-for-you options, the program came under fire for establishing nutrition criteria that allowed products with a significant amount of sugar to qualify (like the Quaker oatmeal in #3!), and healthy choices with too much fat (like nuts and seeds) to not qualify. The program folded in June of 2014.
#5 Long checkout lines can make you buy more
If you’re stuck in line at the grocery store, you’ll be up to 25 percent more likely to buy the tempting items around you, according to research from the University of Arizona. The authors found that the more exposure people have to temptation, the more likely they are to succumb to it. This may also help explain why grocery stores place common staples like milk and eggs at the back of the store, forcing you to run the gauntlet of culinary temptation.
Now I want to hear from you. Which one of these surprised you the most? How will you use this information to make more informed choices on your next grocery shop?
Thanks for reading,
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