Have you been tricked by these foods?

By Jolene Mafas


Food companies can’t seem to help themselves. It must be so-o-o tempting to stretch the truth…even just a tad. So what if consumers are misled? The clues are (almost always) there, if people study the fine print or the ingredients list. Corporate lawyers don’t get paid for nothing. Here’s a sampling of labels that use clever tricks and marketing ploys to make foods sound healthier than they are.

Nothing But the What?

“Real pressed fruit,” say the Nothing But The Fruit boxes. “Picked, puréed and pressed.”

So there’s only pressed raspberry in the Raspberry Chia and pressed strawberry in the Strawberry Real Fruit Bites?

Umm… Turns out they’re mostly apple purée concentrate and grape juice concentrate. That’s why the small print says “naturally flavored with other natural flavors.” Nothing but the truth? Well, sorta.

Cookie Con

“16 g protein per cookie,” brags Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Cookie.

Whether you go with Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, or another flavor, you get “baked nutrition,” says the label. “8 g fiber per cookie. No eggs. No dairy. No soy. Non GMO. Vegan.”

Since when does adding protein (pea isolate, brown rice, and wheat gluten) and processed fiber make a cookie nutritious.

Never mind that each 4 oz. cookie has 360 to 400 calories (the labels list 180 to 200…but that’s for half). And they‘re mostly white flour, sugar, and margarine. That’s not “baked nutrition.” It’s a “give people an excuse to eat a giant cookie” marketing ploy.

Smart Marketing?

“Supports healthy cholesterol levels,” says the Smart Balance Original label.

Yes, but see the tiny “already in the normal range” below? That’s a clue that Smart Balance can’t promise to lower high cholesterol.

And hidden on the bottom of the tub is this: “The right blend of fats may improve your cholesterol ratio when at least 2/3 of your fat intake comes from this product or a properly balanced diet.” Who gets two-thirds of their fat from a spread?

Smart Balance is better for your heart than butter. But it’s got slightly more sat fat (2.5 grams per tablespoon) than some other spreads. Its sat fat is “plant-based”—it comes from palm oil—but that’s true for most spreads. And the “400 mg Omega-3 ALA” isn’t the long-chain omega-3s you’d get from fish oil.

Bottom line: Smart Balance isn’t the best spread. It just has the best marketing.

Spinach Flavor Wraps

“No artificial flavors,” says the bag of Mission Garden Spinach Herb Wraps. No spinach to speak of, either.

There is some spinach powder (after the white flour and shortening). It’s part of the “seasoning,” along with onion powder, garlic powder, spices, oil, natural flavor, and blue and yellow dyes (that’s why the wraps are green).

People buy green wraps to get greens, not green-dyed food. Is Mission on a mission to fool us?

Photos: Leah Ettman/CSPI.

The information in this post first appeared in the October 2017 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.

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