How to Spot Sneaky Marketing Phrases on Food Labels

Remember when nobody cared about being healthy? Back then, doctors smoked in their consulting rooms, soda-guzzling babies were the norm and heroin was an active ingredient in cough syrup.

We can laugh and laugh at the utter ridiculousness of those marketing ploys now, but are things really that much better decades later?

Advertising to children is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and we adults aren’t exactly immune to the wily ways of the marketing moguls, either. There are plenty of hidden tricks advertisers use to sell us stuff.

When it comes to the food we eat, marketers are even sneakier in their attempts to win us over. Between them and the endless array of potentially harmful ingredients out there, we need to be more vigilant than ever.

Misleading Food Labels

By using the right choice of words, marketers can focus the conversation the way they want. It’s all too easy to be sucked in by their bold promises and pretty pictures. We want to believe what they’re telling us, because it’s a nice story.

But as Kate Cooper so rightly points out, “The power of willful ignorance cannot be overstated.”

For us as consumers, it starts with learning what food labels really mean. But it’s also about doing our due diligence, because what’s not on the label is just as important as what is.

Reduced Fat

Choosing the low fat or fat free option is how we’ve been schooled to keep our waistlines in check and our cholesterol down. But low-fat foods aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Along with altering the oils used for producing them, manufacturers have to increase the amount of sugar in their products, so we’ll still find them palatable.

All Natural

The term ‘all natural’ is another one of those misleading food labels. The FDA has yet to define the meaning of this label, which means companies have free reign to use it as they see fit.

High fructose corn syrup, for example, can be labeled ‘all natural.’

Farm Fresh

The words ‘farm fresh’ conjure up images of green pastures and free-roaming cows. But in reality, most of our meat, dairy and eggs comes from factory-farmed animals who’ve never even seen grass before, let alone walked on it.

How to Become a Savvy Shopper

There are so many misleading food labels out there, it’s impossible to list them all in a single article. (Not without giving Leo Tolstoy a run for his money, anyway.)

One approach is to become a savvier shopper and learn how to see right through them. Flip over the box. Look at the food’s actual ingredients list, and check the Nutrition Facts to see how much added sugar is in a serving.

Another idea is to shop at your local farmers market or CSA. And if the supermarket is your only choice, stick to the fresh produce section as much as possible.

Ultimately, it’s up to us to figure out what’s true and what isn’t. Believing the story we’re told is easy, but it’s also lazy. The sheer volume of information at our disposal has made ignorance a poor excuse.

Besides, we have common sense on our side. We don’t need Google to tell us that fresh vegetables are real food. Likewise, we know junk food when we see it.

Out of all the current food trends out there, eating a plant-based, whole food diet makes the most sense. If it comes from the ground and it’s still in its original form, there’s no need for a label. What more can you ask for?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

41 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thank you.

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Danuta W
Danuta W8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Cindy S
Cindy Smith9 months ago

thanks

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Gino C
Past Member 10 months ago

Thank you

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heather g
heather g10 months ago

The authorities could easily stop this.

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer10 months ago

thanks

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer10 months ago

We love in a world of lies.

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Lisa M
Lisa M10 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M10 months ago

Thanks.

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Winn A
Winn A10 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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