This is a guest post by Kerry McLeod, chief Brand Doctor at www.ebrandaid.com. If smart food shopping appeals to you, you’ll want to click here and subscribe to eBrandAid.com’s free newsletters; plus receive a FREE e-Report – eBrandaid’s Grocery Store Survival Guide.
You probably know that you can’t always rely on food manufacturers to have your best interest at heart. More often than not they go out of their way to emphasize “healthy” ingredients when sadly, they’ve added miniscule amounts.
Too often the unhealthy ingredients (think high fructose corn syrup) outweigh any of the nutritional stuff. Trusting shoppers may think they’re making a wise food choice when, in reality, they’re being bamboozled into buying a Healthy Food Imposter.
Take a look at the front label – it boldly states ANTIOXIDANTS, No Artificial Colors, Flavors or Preservatives!
To a time-pressed shopper this might be all the nudging needed to get this product in the grocery cart. After all, the word ANTIOXIDANTS implies it’s a great choice. Right?
Not so fast. When you take the time to read the fine print, you’ll quickly see this is nothing more than a sneaky labeling trick. Manufacturers do it for one simple reason – to entice unsuspecting shoppers to impulse buy their product. We hate when they do that!
(100 calories, 0g fat, 15mg sodium, 26g sugar, 20% vitamin C)
INGREDIENTS: Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Pear, Apple, And Strawberry Juice Concentrates, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin E Acetate, Natural Flavor.
Decoding the Fine Print
Okay, so we already know that the front label implies this is a nutritional juice drink. However, take a look at the ingredients list and the Nutrition Facts label and here’s what you’ll find:
Water and high fructose corn syrup are the first two ingredients listed. Remember, manufacturers list ingredients in order of most to least, meaning the first few ingredients usually make up the bulk of the food item.
Next, they list several fruit concentrates. Maybe now we’re getting somewhere with the healthy stuff, right? Wrong. When you look at the NFL you see that the “healthy stuff” is really only 10% juice. Ouch!
Last on the list are the so-called antioxidants ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and vitamin E acetate. However, when you look at the NFL you also see this only translates into 20% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin C!
To sum up: The juice drink with the big bold word “Antioxidants” splashed on the front label is nothing more than sugar water with a splash of juice and an insignificant amount of added vitamins.
Here’s the real clincher. Capri Sun charges the same amount for this imposter as they do for their 100% Juice variety that sits on the same shelf. Now that’s some moxie!
Step One: Speed read the front label! Remember, manufacturers use this prime real estate to entice shoppers to buy their products. Translation: Much of the wording is pure advertising jargon.
Step Two: Go to the ingredients list! This is where they tell you what’s in the food. They list ingredients in order from most to least. NOTE: For a refresher course see our guidelines on Decoding the Ingredients List.
Step Three: Quick-scan the Nutrition Facts label! The NFL is where you’ll find the amounts of nutrients you’re getting based on the ingredients list.
Taken together, this information will help you make the healthiest food choices. More importantly, it will help you avoid those pesky imposters. Leave them on the shelf right where they belong!
Knowledge is power. Read the labels.