3 ways product labels are lying to you

I do what everyone recommends — I shop the perimeter, and I study food labels. That should be enough to keep me healthy.

But reading food labels can be deceiving.

On the surface what may “appear” to be healthy, can actually be anything but …

How can you decipher the truth?

It helps if you know the tricks.

Here are 3 common ways food labels lie. And how to decode these lies so you can truly eat healthy.

Label lie #1: Only 100 calories per serving!

The number of calories per serving is probably the first thing you look at on a food label, right? But are you looking at how big that serving size is? Or how many servings the food package contains?

For example, many cans of soda, juice or iced tea — which most of us assume is a single serving — are actually 2, sometimes even 3 “servings.” In 1 can.

No fair!

Same drill for cereals. Although the amount per serving is listed on the label (in weight and volume), it’s seldom in the realm of reality.

So you can pour what you think is a single serving into a bowl, while in reality that’s actually 3 or 4 times the amount (and calories) listed on the label. This is particularly true when it comes to small, dense cereals.

And chips? Forget about it. A serving size is usually 1 ounce … which, depending on the size of the chips, could be as few as 8 to 10 chips.

When’s the last time you ate only 8 chips at a time?

And can we talk salad dressing? Many easily contain 100 calories per serving, which is usually only about 2 tablespoons. Do you know how easy it is to pour 6 or even 8 tablespoons of dressing on your salad?

That’s a lot of calories!

Turn it around:

Always look at the serving size of your favorite drink or snack and dole yourself out 1 serving.

As for salad dressing, instead of that packaged trash, make yourself a nice mix of olive oil and vinegar for a dose of healthy fat.

Label lie #2: Made with whole grains!

Whole grains, oats, flax, poppy, wheatgerm, granola, sunflower s
Researchers have found that replacing refined grains with whole grains may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

And they help fill you up and keep you feeling full so you’re less likely to reach for that bag of potato chips sitting on the back of the top shelf.

The problem is that while a package may say it contains whole grains, it may also contain refined flour and added sugar; not your best choice when trying to eat healthy and stay lean.

Turn it around:

Don’t be duped by food manufacturers! Check the ingredients list before you buy. Steer clear if you see these ingredients listed:

  • wheat
  • enriched wheat flour
  • semolina
  • durhum wheat
  • rice
  • oat flour

Look instead for:

  • stone-ground whole wheat
  • whole or rolled oats
  • whole-grain brown rice
  • bulgar
  • quinoa
  • whole-grain corn

That means the product is most likely all whole grain.

If you want to be 100% confident the product is whole grain, look for the 100% whole-grain stamp, which means the product contains only whole grains.

Label lie #3: Cholesterol-free!

Everyone’s watching their cholesterol. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease.

But cholesterol is a product made by the liver. So it can only be found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and butter.

So a bag of honey mustard pretzels or gummy worms screaming “No cholesterol!” is like saying the sun will come out tomorrow.

As my 9-year-old son would say … “No duh.”

Many of us do need to keep an eye on how much cholesterol we are taking in, since diets high in cholesterol can increase your blood cholesterol levels; but only about 1 in 3 people are susceptible to the effects of cholesterol in food.

The more important dietary risk factors are saturated and trans fats, which are well-known cholesterol boosters.

And even if a food contains 0 grams of cholesterol, if it contains saturated or trans fats, it can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood stream, which can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Turn it around:

Aim to keep your daily intake of cholesterol at or below 300 mg. More important, your intake of saturated fat should be less than 10% of your total calories and ideally less than 7%, which may further reduce your risk of heart disease.

So, if you consume a 1,800- to 2,000-calorie diet, that would be about 130–140 calories or about 14–15 grams of saturated fat daily.

The bottom line

Although the packaging might say …

Only 100 calories per serving!

Made with whole grains!

Cholesterol-free!

Or any other healthy claim …

Make sure to read between the lines, and remember the “turn-arounds.”

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!

Join the Whole Body Club

Dr. Steve Sisskind is on a mission to help you achieve amazing health and vitality through the power of nutrition. Sign up to get access to his valuable health tips, recipes, videos, and discounts for FREE!

Check Also

The 1-step trick to tame your cravings

One subject that comes up a lot around here is how to deal with cravings. …

17 comments

  1. If you have candida which limits fruits. Which fruits are best? A lot of glutton packaged foods contain sugar, is there a any sensible glutton free products that you suggest. What do you think about acai for diabetics? Always enjoy your ideas. Thanks for all your help.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Esther,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I have heard many great things about Acai but have yet to try. Be sure to stick to your portions and fresh squeezed juice is always better for the vitamins and nutrients they contain. If you keen on having fruit everyday, limit your portions and stick to what’s in season. These are the most sweet and can quickly satisfy your cravings. In terms of which would be best, I always go for the more dense kinds such as pears, avocado ( my favorite!) or substitute with carrot sticks. Hope this helps Esther! Make it a healthy day!

  2. Is EVOO OK

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Richard,

      Thank you for writing in! Yes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a great addition to any diet. It contains monounsaturated fats and even some omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you in so many ways, including helping with your weight-loss efforts. Olive oil can also be used in a variety of ways from frying to salad dressing. Definitely a constant in my kitchen. Have a healthy day!

  3. Does the Mafia poison our extra virgin olive oil ?

  4. I added organic ghee to my diet which I find delicious … how healthy is ghee?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Jana,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Ghee, which is a form of clarified butter, has a significant amount of saturated fats and cholesterol in them. When you heat any food that is high in cholesterol, the heating process produces COPs or Cholesterol Oxidation Products, which are reported to increase the risk of cancer and heart disease, in part, due to a pro-inflammatory action. So, if you are using Ghee often, I do suggest that you not heat it beyond its smoke point and only very quickly. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  5. I just received information from what looks to be a credible source claiming that ALL bread — whole wheat, whole grain, gluten free, whatever — is basically POISON. Do you agree with that assessment? Say it ain’t so Doc!

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Skip,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your questions! Wheat, due to high demand, has been changed several times over that while it feeds our hunger it also negatively impacts our health. It can cause several reactions from our body such as a high insulin response, bloating or gas, increase in fat production and inflammation. Sadly, this is the main component of most breads and though not all breads are poison, per se, they do have the potential to hinder our weight loss progress and affect our well being.

      As for whole grains, you can have a healthy serving (1/2 cup, daily) and I do highly recommend that you have them early in the day. I also suggest that you try adding seeds such as Quinoa, Flax and Chia into your diet not just for variety but these are packed full of nutrients and Omega 3 too. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  6. What about Coconut Oil? It is a saturated fat, I take 2 to 3 tlbs a day, is this bad?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi George,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your question! We love coconut oil! While it is mainly composed of saturated fats, they are in the form of medium chain triglycerides and are water soluble. And, 2 or 3 tablespoons per day is a good portion and I do suggest you try them on toast or popcorn, in place of butter. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  7. According to latest research and to your personal view;
    1. Are saturated vegetable fats like coconut oil, macadamia nut oil and palm oil healthier than animal fats ?
    2. What makes the fat from grass fed beef healthier than the fat from fodder raised beef?
    3. Is pork a healthier option than lamb or beef where fat is concerned?
    Thanks for your considered responses, DR R

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Ruth,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your questions! Yes, saturated fats derived from plant sources are healthier in the sense that they contain, MCT’s or Medium Chain Triglycerides. These have been found to be water soluble and get burned in the liver with little to none going into circulation. Coconut oil, for example, may be composed largely of saturated fats but they are in the form of MCT’s (Lauric acid)and mainly impact or imporve one’s HDL (high density lipoprotein or good cholesterol) levels.

      As for grass fed beef, they have less saturated fat than grain-fed beef. The fat profile of grass-fed beef is also surprisingly healthy, including significantly higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Consuming an optimal amount of CLA has been shown to help you retain lean muscle as you reduce body fat.

      And lastly, if you goal is weight loss, pork would be a good option if your cut (loin or chops) is lean. However, pound for pound, I would personally choose beef or lamb as it contains more protein which is essential in maintaining muscle mass. They little difference in terms of fat and Grass fed beef contains healthier saturated fats.

      I hope this helps, Ruth! Have a healthy day!

  8. Yes most of us are suckers for marketing. T
    For example try and find a loaf of wholemeal bread that is not over processed and that is actually better for you than white bread? Generally if the item claims low fat or reduced sugar its not good for you as usually they have added a load of rubbish to it tio try to make it the same taste as the original product..

    try an find a loaf of wholemeal bread that does not contain over processed flour which is no better than white bread

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! Yes, I completely agree with you there. Reading and understanding the labels can help you with making healthy decisions. However, it is also important to read between the lines to get a better understanding of the product you have in the palm of your hand. Hope to hear more of your thoughts! Have a healthy day!

  9. Nothing wrong with healthy (saturated) fats

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Ozden,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us!Yes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a healthy serving of saturated fats. However, it’s very hard for us to determine what type of diet our readers are consuming on a regular basis. If they are eating a diet HIGH in saturated fat, and we recommend full fat dairy, it’s going to further hinder their weight loss efforts by adding additional calories and by possibly creating dangerous inflammation.

      That said, we feel it’s best to focus on a diet high in vegetables, lean proteins like wild caught fish or beef and low fat dairy from grass fed sources, as well as limited whole grains and fruit. Try to get your fats from healthier sources like Omega 3’s than saturated fat sources. Omega 3’s come from sources such as fish, avocados nuts and seeds and studies show Omega 3 is effective at fighting inflammation.

      Hope this helps,Ozden! Have a healthy day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *