Many consumers are tricked by words on the label and ingredients in food into making choices which cost more money but may not be the healthiest choices. Watch out for these tricks of the trade by companies:
• Companies add vitamins and minerals to junk food or plain water. Thus, junk food appears healthier. Skip expensive waters and drink plain water. If you need vitamins and minerals take a daily vitamin pill.
• Companies use flavorings, colorings and other ingredients to create fake berries or other fruit. Check ingredients to make sure real fruit is in the product.
• Colorings and flavorings are also used in beverage drinks so you will pay more and not realize you are not getting fruit or very little fruit. Read labels to find and buy only 100% juices.
• Monosodiumglutate and hydrolyzed vegetable protein are used so companies can skimp on the real food. These usually help with meaty flavors. Check ingredients to avoid or limit these.
• Transglutaminase (enzyme) allows companies to put some pieces of meat together so it appears as a larger steak. Make sure your steak is one piece of meat.
• Companies want you to drink more soda so they add caffeine as it is mildly addictive. Drink water.
• Carotenoid Colorings such as canthaxanthin and astaxanthin are added to make farmed salmon pinker, so it looks more like expensive wild salmon. Check the ingredients or ask if “wild caught” or “farmed.”
Beware of some words such as “real, fresh, simple, premium and artisanal. “ These words do not have defined meanings in the food industry.
• Real conveys the image of no fake or chemical ingredients. However, real doesn’t have to be chemical-free or not be processed food.
• Fresh does not have a time period associated with it according to the Food and Drug Administration. Fresh means the food cannot have been frozen or preserved.
• Simple can have multiple meanings. We think it means less processed and less ingredients. However, the food can include sugar and fat as part of the ingredients.
• Premium is another word that does not have a meaning. It can trick you into thinking you are getting a better product or deal than you are.
• Artisanal conveys the image of handcrafted baked goods and cheeses. Many grocery store products labeled “artisanal” are not produced by small-batch producers and may have many ingredients only used by larger producers. Check the ingredient lists.
Author: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Fayette County
Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Wood County
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