I would bet you have seen some of these health claims (& likely many others) on food labels of items you’ve bought. And I’d bet that you have been suckered in to buying items based on these claims…I’ll admit that I have.
Here are some truths behind some of the common health claims you’ll see on food labels in Canada…
“Calorie Free” – less than 5 calories per serving size. The “per serving size” is the catch here…you then have to look at the nutrition label to see how big the serving size is. The serving size may only be ¼ or less of the actual size you’ll eat at a time.
“Low calorie” – 40 calories per serving size. Same catch as above…you have to check the serving size.
“Reduced calorie or fat or sodium ” – the food is processed or otherwise modified so that it contains at least 25% less calories/fat/sodium than the regular version.
“Fat-free, Non-fat, etc” – less than 0.5g per serving size.
“Low fat” – less than 3g of fat per serving size.
“Lean” (as in ‘lean ground beef’) – contains 10% fat or less.
“Extra lean” (as in ‘extra lean ground beef’) – contains 7.5% fat or less.
“No saturated fat” and “Trans fat free” – less than 0.2g of saturated fatty acids or trans fats per serving size.
“Low in saturated fat” – less than 2g of saturated fatty acids per serving size.
“Cholesterol free” – less than 2mg of cholesterol per serving size.
“Low cholesterol” – less than 20mg of cholesterol per serving size.
“Sodium free” – less than 5mg of sodium per serving size.
“Low in sodium” – 140mg or less of sodium per serving size.
“Sugar free” – less than 0.5g of sugars per serving size.
“No added sugar” – no added sugar, and no ingredients that contain added sugars. (“unsweetened” falls under this category as well).
“Source of fibre” – contains 2g or more of fibre per serving size.
“High source of fibre” – contains 4g or more of fibre per serving size.
Any vitamin or mineral that claims it’s a “source of” – contains >5% recommended daily intake (RDI) of that item.
“Good source of” or “High in” a vitamin or mineral – contains >15% RDI of that item.
“Excellent source of” a vitamin or mineral – contains >25% RDI of that item.
“Fortified” or “Enriched” – usually means the food has been altered or processed.
“Natural” – the manufacturer started with a natural source, however once processed it usually doesn’t resemble anything natural.
“Organic” – trust only “certified organically grown” if you want true organic foods.
“Made with wheat, multigrain, etc” – doesn’t tell you how much whole grains are in the product. Look for 100% whole grain products.
The list is long, but all items in the list are similar and misleading. You MUST check the serving size as there are no regulations on this (meaning, the manufacturer can make the serving size ridiculously small and then include a health claim from the list above). You also need to be aware of what “high in” or “low in” means in regards to fats and nutrients. Zero does not mean zero in the world of health claims!
And as I said in the previous post…it is best to choose items with no ingredient list when possible (whole foods), or choose items with a small ingredient list and items you can pronounce!