I am sure you have seen nutrition claims like “all natural,” “whole wheat,” “good source of fiber,” “light,” “sugar free” and “reduced calorie.” If you’re like most shoppers, you’ve been confused about these claims while in the grocery store. They all sound appealing and lure customers into buying these products, especially if we are trying to watch our weight and eat a healthier diet. But are those “all natural” whole grain crackers really as healthy as they seem? What do these nutrition claims really mean? Can we really trust what the manufacturers are telling us? Below I have decoded some of the most popular nutrition claims to help you look past all of the confusion and become a smarter shopper.
- “All Natural” – The FDA has not officially defined the term “natural.” A product can have a “natural” claim if it has no artificial or synthetic ingredients and does not contain added coloring. The product must also be very minimally processed. But be careful, just because a product has the claim “natural,” does not mean it is more nutritious than another food. “Natural” items can be loaded with sugar, fat and preservatives. Your best solution is to check out the ingredient list.
- “Organic” or “100% Organic” – These products must be grown and processed according to USDA standards. The term “organic” describes the way farmers grow and process their products (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meat). “100% organic” claim can be made only if the products are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients. An “organic” claim can be made if the product is 95% organic.
- “Made with,” or “A good source of” – For a specific product to claim it is a “good source” it has to contain at least 10% of the Daily Value.
- “Whole grain” – Products with this claim contain little or no refined white flour. Look for enriched wheat flour, unbleached white flour, or wheat flour. The lower on the list, the better the food is.
- “100% Whole Wheat” – The product has no refined white flour. Look on the food label; make sure the first ingredient includes the word “whole” in it. For example, if the first ingredient is “whole wheat flour,” this product is 100% whole wheat. If the first ingredient is “wheat flour,” it could contain some refined flour.
- “High Fiber” – Product must have 5 grams or more fiber per serving.
- “12 grain or multigrain” – The most important thing is that a product has whole grains, so the number of grains does not make the product “healthier.”
Knowledge is the most important factor in becoming supermarket savvy. Your best bet is to read the nutrition label and the ingredient list, no matter what the claim on the front of the product states. Check back in 2 weeks for part 2 of my blog. I will discuss nutrition claims for sugar, calories, fat, and sodium. More information to come!
Shelly Edens is a registered dietitian with Memorial Hospital.