11 Packaged Food Words to Beware

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The words written on food packaging are a contract between you and the manufacturer, as mandated by the federal government via the FDA. Many food producers hire lawyers that help them craft words to get you to buy their products while toeing the line of legality. Here are a few common package proclamations that you should look out for, and what they really mean.

1. Flavored

1. Flavored
Both natural and artificial flavors are actually made in laboratories. But natural flavorings are isolated from a natural source, whereas artificial flavorings are not. However, natural flavors are not necessarily healthier than artificial. According to Scientific American, the natural flavor of coconut is not from an actual coconut, as one might expect, but from the bark of a tree in Malaysia. The process of extracting the bark kills the tree and drives up the price of the product when an artificial flavoring could be made more cheaply and more safely in a laboratory. That natural strawberry flavor you love? It could be made from a "natural" bacterial protein. Mmmm!

2. Drink and cocktail

2. Drink and cocktail
The FDA requires that the amount of juice be labeled on a package when it claims to contain juice. The words drink and cocktail should have you checking the label for percentages and hidden sugars. But beware: even a product labeled 100 percent juice could be a mixture of cheaper juices, like apple juice and white grape juice.

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3. Pure

3. Pure
100 percent pure products such as orange juice can be doctored with flavor packs for aroma and taste similar to those used by perfume companies. By now we all know about the use of flavor packs added back to fresh-squeezed orange juice like Tropicana and Minute Maid.

4. Nectar

4. Nectar
The word nectar sounds Garden of Eden pure, but according to the FDA it's just a fancy name for "not completely juice." The FDA writes: "The term 'nectar' is generally accepted as the common or usual name in the U.S. and in international trade for a diluted juice beverage that contains fruit juice or puree, water, and may contain sweeteners." The ingredient list of Kern's, a popular brand of peach nectar, contains high fructose corn syrup before peach puree.

5. Spread

5. Spread
Anything that uses the word spread, is not 100 percent derived from its main ingredient. Skippy Reduced Fat peanut butter is a spread because it contains ingredients that make it different than traditional peanut butter. When something is called a spread, look at the ingredients to see if there is anything in there you don't want.

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6. Good source of fiber

6. Good source of fiber
If it doesn't look like fiber, it may not function like fiber. Products that are pumped full of polydextrose and inulin are not proven to have the same benefits of fruits, vegetables, and beans, foods naturally high in fiber. For true fiber-based benefit add some fruit to your yogurt.

7. Cholesterol free

7. Cholesterol free
Any product that is not derived from an animal source is cholesterol free. Companies add this to packaging to create the illusion of health. The product is not necessarily unhealthy, but you should see if there is something they are trying to distract you from--e.g., corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils.

8. Fat free

8. Fat free
PAM cooking spray and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray are fat free if used in the super miniscule and near impossible serving sizes recommended. PAM must be sprayed for ¼ of a second and the small I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray bottle contains over 1,000 servings! Even then it's not fat free it's just below the amount that the FDA requires to be identified on labels.

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9. Sugar free

9. Sugar free
This designation means free of sucrose not other sugar alcohols that carry calories from carbohydrates but are not technically sugar. Sugar alcohols are not calorie free. They contain 1.5-3 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for sugar. Also, certain sugar alcohols can cause digestion issues.

10. Trademarks

10. Trademarks
Dannon yogurt is the only company allowed to use the bacteria in yogurt called bifidus regularis because the company created its own strain of a common yogurt bacterial strain and trademarked the name. Lactobacillus acidophilus thrives in all yogurts with active cultures. Although Activa is promoted as assisting in digestion and elimination, all yogurts, and some cheeses, with this bacteria will do the same thing. 

11. Health claims

11. Health claims
Could a probiotic straw give immunity protection to a child? Are Cheerios a substitute for cholesterol-lowering drugs? The FDA doesn't think so. Foods are not authorized to treat diseases. Be suspicious of any food label that claims to be the next wonder drug.

Sources: ynhh.org, popsci.com, seriouseats.com, teambeachbody.com, scientificamerican.com, yalepress.typepad.com, livestrong.com, fda.gov

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24 thoughts on “11 Packaged Food Words to Beware

  1. There not saying orange juice isn’t good! It’s fill with other junk that isn’t good! I make my own! Fresh!!!

  2. Alex, you are mistaken. Natural sugar is best and needed. The truth is there are good and bad sugars but as with anything , to much isnt. That includes meats and your so called healthy fats. To much ” healthy fat” will make you fat.

  3. Alex, you are mistaken. Natural sugar is best and needed. The truth is there are good and bad sugars but as with anything , to much isnt. That includes meats and your so called healthy fats. To much ” healthy fat” will make you fat.

  4. Alex, you are mistaken. Natural sugar is best and needed. The truth is there are good and bad sugars but as with anything , to much isnt. That includes meats and your so called healthy fats. To much ” healthy fat” will make you fat.

  5. In most cases, natural flavor is mainly  MSG in addition, the serving size that is listed on the nutritional information label is not a typical consumer size also remember added sugar goes by many different name such as fructose, glucose, lactose sometime corn syrup. For diabetics, sugar-free generally means added fat which can also alter your glucose values

    1. Right, they write a certain percentage of sugar, cholesterol, etc. for each serving, but the recommended servings tend to be way smaller than you actually eat.

  6. In most cases, natural flavor is mainly  MSG in addition, the serving size that is listed on the nutritional information label is not a typical consumer size also remember added sugar goes by many different name such as fructose, glucose, lactose sometime corn syrup. For diabetics, sugar-free generally means added fat which can also alter your glucose values

  7. who really IS the FDA in the first place to go around telling us what to eat. i give em credit for finding all the stuff they found but…. we THE PEOPLE have found more.

  8. I’m glad they mention the thing about orange juice. i used to get very very ill as a child from having just a sip of orange juice. growing up, just the thought of OJ made me nauseous and start gagging. However, recently, I started drinking orange juice that I would freshly squeeze myself, using orange bought at a nearby farmers market or grown in my backyard. I have no once been sick from my orange juice, but if i dare drink store bought orange juice, I still get sick!

  9. that was weird i think that is true and not true hey rangers r awesome i like pie

    1. I like pie? Isn’t that a like 4th grade joke from several years ago?

    2. I like pie? Isn’t that a like 4th grade joke from several years ago?

    1. FDA is the biggest joke in america… believe nothing they say, they are paid by companies to tell u lies, and put real food and medicine out of bussness.. How much longer are you people going to stand for this?????

  10. FDA — Food AND Drug… and since they’re owned by the corporations it only make sense that the food is regulated to be the poison and the drug to be the antidote. Very obvious conflict of interest and certainly would explain the rise of diet-related diseases which coincide with the incredible number of drugs now available, not to mention the amazing profits shown by the corporations.

  11. The FDA? Ha, Everyone knows honey, orange juice and zinc DO actully helps w/a cold, among MANY MANY other NATURAL ” healers”  right out of the earth that  WORK! But thanks to the likes of Beyer, Lilly, and othe big pharma lobbisit if it’s not man made by them it’s illegal to even hint at the TRUTH in nature!

  12. It’s to a point now of WHAT CAN YOU EAT AND BE SAFE. We never had any of these problems years ago and now it is really out of control of us and the goverment does not care one way or another.

  13. I am sorry to your advertisers but this is all a bunch of hooey… juice is no better for you than any other form of sugar… we need meats and good fats (including saturated fat) to be healthy…. eat as few things as possible with an ingredient list..if it has a list of ingredients, it’s a processed food. Eat many, many fewer carbohydrates… and the story about humans needing “healthy whole grains” is a total fabrication to sell more commodity grain….  The same diet used to fatten cattle and hogs in a feedlot will not help a human to be lean and fit. There is NOTHING in grain that is not easily found in a host of better foods.  All carbohydrates… simple or complex, are digested as sugar and we all eat far too many to be healthy and slender. 
    Can you improve your health via diet alone…YES!  get off the processed/ sugar/wholegrains bandwagon and start eating real foods… your health will bloom.

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