Read the Fine Print on the Labels

Ever been told to “read the fine print” before signing a contract? It’s a warning to check for loop holes and problematic terms before committing to something, right?

Well, it’s a crummy fact of life but many things don’t come as advertised. Packaged foods are no exception. Many items that are billed as healthy on the front label, reveal another story when you check out the ingredients on the back.

Don’t be fooled by advertising. Avoid bad choices and be on the alert for these common food label traps:

  • Fat Free: Fat-free foods can be higher in carbs than their regular counterparts and may have almost as many calories. Fat-free cookies are a perfect example. Fat-free is not necessarily a better choice. Read your labels carefully.
  • Serving Size: If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. You cannot use half a bottle of butter spray and still think you’re getting zero calories and zero grams of fat! It’s true that per serving it’s just that, but spray your entire bowl of popcorn and you’ve got way more calories and fat than you intended.
  • Trans fats: While you’re being smart looking at the packaging that says “trans fat-free,” check the ingredient list to see if it contains partially hydrogenated oil. You may think your meal is in the clear because of the outside packaging, and while it’s technically true if you only eat one serving, you’d be eating the nasty trans fat too if you’re going for more than one serving — something you’re supposed to avoid at all costs!

Be cautious and keep yourself informed!  You will spend a lot of time reading labels at first. It will get easier though — trust me. Once you’re familiar with a particular product’s label you’ll know if it’s a good choice in the future. Then you’ll be down to reading the labels on new products. Having said that, don’t assume that the products you buy every week will always be a good choice. Companies do change their product formulas, serving sizes, etc. So if a favourite product suddenly has a new look, read the back carefully.

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