WARNING: Top 10 Ways Food Labels Can Trick You

When you’re watching calories, you become more aware of everything that goes in your body. It’s like trying to save money for something special. You quit blowing calories on stuff you don’t really care about anyway, just like you’d quit blowing money on stupid stuff that is senseless.

The problem is, you can still waste calories and make bad decisions because reading a label is not as easy as reading a price tag. If only there was one simple number to look for, but there isn’t. We are looking at calories, fat, carbs, protein, fiber, sugar and all kinds of other stuff too. So, in the end, we can read the wrong thing – or read only one thing (missing other things) and still mess up. Plain and simple: labels are tricky business – and I believe many of them are tricky because that is exactly the way they planned it!

Here Are My Top 10 Label Rants:

1. Who eats 1/4 cup of granola and calls that one serving size? Unfortunately, most of us use a cup or more. In my case, that would mean a bowl of my granola would be 520 calories – and that’s WITHOUT milk!

2. Since when did 5 grams of protein become “high protein”? I hate it when a product proudly announces “Now, High-Protein” just because they added 2 more grams of protein. This is false advertising, preying on people who know high-protein is a good thing. In addition, it’s all relative. High protein isn’t high protein if the majority of calories are coming from everything else but protein.

3. Fat means nothing if it still has a million calories. Sugary products are known for trying to come up with something positive to say, like “this product is fat free”, when they should be saying “this product is loaded with sugar and is 500 calories, which can make you fat anyway”.

4. “Sugar-free” doesn’t mean healthy. Chocolate products are horrible about doing this. They tell you it’s sugar free, when it should actually say “made with sugar alcohol and still packed with fat”. Sure sugar alcohols are half the calories as sugar, but they are still calories, and many of the chocolate products are still high in fat. Erythritol, Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, Isomalt, Lactitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol and Xylitol are all alcohol sugars. Bottom line – unless you are diabetic, just look at the calories – all ingredients will eventually be reflected there.

5. Who really uses 2 tablespoons of salad dressing on their salad? Restaurants typically give you two 2 ounce containers of dressing, yet a bottled dressing’s serving size is only 2 tablespoons – which won’t go very far on a dinner salad. My trick is to dilute it with water, but honestly people? Don’t you want the truth on the bottle, and for a company to actually show us what a REAL serving size is?

6. “Made with real fruit” doesn’t really mean made with real fruit. When “made with real fruit” is on the label, you picture workers mashing up berries and mixing it in to the food. No, instead, what it really means is that it has fruit concentrate in it – which the Dietary Guidelines for Americans considers just another form of sugar. This is very common in snacks for kids. Sugar is sugar, and calories are calories. Bottom line, if you want fruit – just eat fruit. You might as well call all the other fruit-like products candy.

7. I don’t care if you say you have “no trans fats”, you still have a lot of fat. This is another very irritating and misleading marketing tactic. Products scream “NO TRANS FAT”. Yet, they either have a ton of healthy fat, or they replace trans fat with saturated fat which is bad too. Although not all fats are created equal, some being healthier than others. They are all created equal when you are talking about calories and weight loss. 1 gram of trans fat, saturated fat, or unsaturated fat all have 9 calories in them (instead of 4 calories that are in 1gm of proteins and carbs). So, if it still has a lot of fat in it, it still has a lot of calories in it, maybe just slightly healthier calories.

9. “Light” and “Low Fat” can still mean heavy and fattening. Salad dressings, peanut butter and milk products (like cheese) are the worst! They say “Low-Fat” but they still have a ton of fat in them. The fact is, they can’t take too much fat out of certain products, so they do what they can and proudly display it. The problem is, they often replace those calories with sugar, and other ingredients, to make up for the flavor. Some of them are the same calories, just a few calories less, or even more calories. For example, low fat JIF peanut butter and regular JIF both have 190 calories in them. So, if they reduced the fat by 4 grams, the calories should have been reduced by 36 calories. So that means they replaced those calories with something, considering the carbs doubled and the sugar also increased. These are the things that make you go hmmmm.

10. Just give it to me straight! No one buys a 20 ounce drink to split between 2 1/2 people. Get real people! Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, Welchs – PLEASE just tell us how many calories are in the entire bottle because that’s what I plan on drinking. It is ridiculous to split up the nutrition information so I have to multiple everything by 2.5. If something is an individual bottle or single use container, it’s label should have a single serving. Period!

– B –

What is YOUR label rant? Do Tell!

Owner of Lift Vero and motivational "pfitness, pfood and pfaith" blogger in Vero Beach, Florida.


  • GiGi Eats Celebrities

    “GOOD SOURCE OF”… I HATE that label. It’s so stupid because what does “good” mean… And why aren’t labels like “EXCELLENT SOURCE OF CALCIUM” on bags of spinach and kale? Makes no sense to me!

    I also really hate the TRANS FAT FREE label because it’s such a lie. If there is partically hydrogenated oils in the food, it’s NOT trans fat free!!

    The portion size thing is also ridiculous. No one knows what a portion size looks like so OF COURSE they’re going to eat far more than what the label says! Oh and granola… that’s a killer food right there! LOL.

    Great post! 🙂

  • Sarah C

    GREAT points. It’s amazing how people just assume that because the package claims “low fat” or “reduced” something or other, it’s immediately healthy. Thorough label reading is absolutely a must!

  • saaj444

    Nice blog. Hope you can check out mine and my nutrition section where I address our dietary habits. Look forward to reading more and finding out more about your training.

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