Beware of These So-Called Health Foods: Unpacking the Marketing Speak

Food labels are sales tools. It’s vital to remember that, so we don’t get sucked into believing the slogans on the front of the packets.

With more people aware of the connection between the food we eat and the health we experience, food manufacturers have responded. They’ve hit on a handful of market-tested words and phrases that help sell their products to the health conscious consumer.

And in this article, we’re going to unpack those slogans because many of them are misleading.


When a food is touted as being healthy, there’s a halo effect. Once we believe it’s good for us, it’s easy to let our guard down.

* Just ‘coz it says “healthy” doesn’t mean it is!
* Just ‘coz it says “natural” doesn’t mean it is!
* Just ‘coz it says “full of nature’s goodness” (or whatever words the spin doctors pulled out of their bag of marketing tricks) doesn’t mean it is!


Let’s unpack some of the healthy-sounding but misleading phrases they throw at us.

“Made from real fruit”
All it takes for this to be true is that somewhere in the production process a single piece of fruit was involved… before they added the sugar and the other health nightmares!

“Natural flavor”
Now, does that “natural flavor” come from a laboratory or from real pieces of real fruit generously mixed in with the yogurt? If there are real fruit pieces, then check the total sugar load… then head over to fruit and veggie section of the shop.

Maybe, but it might still be high on organic sugars.

“Organic sugar”
Trouble is… it’s still sugar.

“Light / Lite”
Often that’s code for the extra salt and/or sugar which they add to compensate for the flavor loss when some of the fat is removed.

“Reduced fat”
Yes, but reduced by how much? And how much sodium, partially hydrogenated oil and sugar did they add in? Take turkey burgers, for example. The reduced fat claim is appealing until you check the ingredients and find a huge dose of sodium has been added instead. Pass!

“Half the calories!”
Yeah, but what about sodium?

“Whole wheat” / “Gluten-free”
Yes, but what about the salt, sugar, fats that might be in this? Read the ingredients list.

“Low fat”
A clever bit of branding indeed. Often used to hide huge amounts of sugar.

“Protein bars”
Protein is good. So this sounds healthy. Until you read the ingredients list on the back and discover the huge sugar punch it’s packing.

Sugar free
Now here’s one to love, right? Not necessarily. Often that slogan is a clue that this brew has a high load of unhealthy fats.


Hey, that’s an easy one.

Real food.


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