Magazines and online health articles are always reminding us how important it is to read food labels. While I agree that being an informed consumer is an important part of your wellness, I also completely understand why people find food labels so confusing.
Let’s look at this example that stopped me in my tracks while grocery shopping.
We’ll start at the top and work our way down:
MADE WITH WHOLE GRAIN OATS
This is a good thing, right? We’re supposed to be eating whole grains!
‘Made with’ whole grain oats? All that means is that they are included in the ingredients, not that they are the primary ingredient. They don’t even have to be 50% of the oats in the product to be included as ‘made with’ on the front label.
Oatmeal is good for me! Go me for having a healthy breakfast! I know instant probably isn’t as good as longer-cooking oats, but who has the time for that? At least I’m eating breakfast, right?
Yes and no. Eating breakfast is better than not eating breakfast, but as a full nutritional profile this instant oatmeal isn’t going to earn you a pat on the back on its own.
Excellent! I should probably eat less sugar.
On its own, sugar free oatmeal is a good idea. Sugar free oatmeal is, well, oatmeal. But we have to keep reading……
MAPLE & BROWN SUGAR
Tasty! I’m not going to have to choke down a bowl of paste!
Wait. If this oatmeal is sugar free, yet it is branded as ‘Maple & Brown Sugar’, where is the flavor coming from?
EEEEwwwwww. I wonder how the flavors of maple and brown sugar are made.
Stop thinking about it. You don’t want to know. And you don’t really want to eat it, either.
And off to the side it says “NOT A LOW CALORIE FOOD”—yeah, all those artificial sweeteners still pack a caloric punch.
Those are just the big words on the front of the package. I get how you’re confused, people. So while I think it’s a good idea to read food packaging and nutritional profiles, make sure you do it thoughtfully. What looks like a decent breakfast option at first glance isn’t so great.
Shop on, savvy eaters.