• Dr. ilya Gluskin PT, DPT

5 Nutritional Label Misconceptions

We all know that making healthy food choices is a key factor in attempting to live a healthier lifestyle. No matter what your goals may be, choosing the proper food to fuel your body and understanding basic nutritional guidelines is imperative to set yourself up for success.

If eating a well-balanced diet and shopping for these foods is new to you, you may feel over whelmed with all the options out there and reading labels may be daunting. Sugar-free, fat-free, low-fat, organic, cage-free; the list goes on and on. What does this all mean? Are these labels misleading to the average consumer?

Food companies want their products to taste good to consumers in order to see successful sales and keep their space on the grocery store shelves. But, to gear to the continuously growing health-conscious market, companies need to provide"healthier options." Hence, ingredients have to be altered to keep the "good" taste without the same amount of fat and sugar. In many cases, products are labeled as "low-fat", "sugar-free", etc and substitute ingredients are added such as chemically-altered sugar substitutes, synthetic flavor and color additives to help boost sales and convince consumers that they are making a better food choice. Are we being taken advantage of? Are we spending more money on items marked with these key words without truly knowing what they mean? And, are these chemically-altered foods really "healthy?"

When purchasing foods with these 5 labels, consider this information, educate yourself on the food you choose to consume, and make the most sensible decisions to reach your fitness goals with your health in mind.



Sugar-Free: Sugar is used to improve flavor. If some items claim to be "sugar-free," that typically means that there is a replacement for that sweetness. Look at the nutritional label to evaluate the fat content. When sugar is decreased, the amount of fat may be increased. In other cases, they may replace it with artificial sweeteners to fill the void. Some of these sweeteneres have been proven to have carcinogenic properities. Recommendations: Opt for foods with lower levels of natural sugars, avoid or limit food with corn syrup and processed white sugar.


Fat-Free: There are different types of fat out there and some are even essential for life. "Good fats" are necessary for fueling the body and an important way to store energy. These fats are also crucial for absorbing nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins antioxidants. Since this information has been more available to the public and people are educating themselves on nutrition, people are getting exposed to the concept of essential fats and their benefits when kept in appropriate quantities. This being said, when fat of any kind is removed from a product, it is often replaced with added sugar to make up for the lost flavor. Ask yourself if you really want to sacrifice fat for more sugar? Recommendations: Consume products with regular fat content or lower levels of natural fat while being mindful that each gram of fat contains 9 kcals resulting in greater overall calories per weight. It is more beneficial to eat a product that has its full fat content in a small quantity rather than buying products marketed as "low-fat" and "fat-free" and eating larger amounts. Choose foods like avocados and natural nut butters.


Free Range/Cage-free: A catchy term, but what does it really mean? The term "free range" applies to animal products that are not kept in captivity while being raised. However, what are the qualifications for this term? Do the animals spend their entire lives in a free range environment? What extent is it truly free range? How can you truly tell? I'm not questioning every product out there but merely exploring some questions. In some cases, animal only spend the last few weeks or months of their lives in some form for "free range" environment. Does this matter? How does it change the meat quality? Most importantly, how much do you care and do you want to be spending extra money on food that may not be as free range as you think? Recommendations: If you are truly invested in free range products, research brands and explore specific farming policies. Do not simply trust the packaging and think you are being told the truth on the product you are purchasing.


Grass Fed: The same concepts and questions apply to "grass fed" as they do above for "free range" products. Do your research if you choose to consume meat that is grass fed.


Zero-Calories: Foods that you should be consuming on a regular basis should contain calories as that is why we eat. Food is energy and without calories it is relatively useless for the most part. Not including water of course. If a food product does not contain calories when normally it would, that should alert the sirens that something is off. Typically foods in this category are stuffed with artificial products, bi-products, chemicals, etc. I'd take a bunch of well-balanced calories over zero-calorie options! Recommendations: Avoid zero-calorie options due to likely elevated levels of chemicals and artificial agents.

These principles may not apply to all food items on the market but rather should be considered when you are shopping for yourself and your family. Consult with your local dietitian for greater details and information of nutritional topics or issues. Remember you can not out train poor nutrition! Stay motivated and always live to achieve!


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