If just about everything we eat is super and natural, is anything? One writer rants against today’s food marketing trends.
Selling new products to time-strapped shoppers sounds like a difficult job, but do food marketers really need to be so repetitive? We wouldn’t miss it if these 13 packaging terms checked out for good.
1. Superfoods So-called superfoods, such as goji and acai berries, have been getting a great deal of press, but don’t believe the marketing hype, says nutritionist Fiona Hunter. “There’s no legal definition of ‘superfood,’ so it’s a term that’s open to abuse,” she warns. “Eat goji berries if you like the taste, but don’t expect them to change your life. Don’t think they’ll turn a bad diet into a good one. Strictly speaking, all fruit and vegetables are ‘superfoods,’ because they all provide important vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that help keep us healthy. Some, such as blueberries and broccoli, contain such large amounts of these health-promoting substances that it’s good to include them as often as possible in your diet. However, this doesn’t mean that you should stop eating more commonplace produce, such as apples and bananas. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, variety is the thing.”
2. All-natural Just because something is all-natural doesn’t make it healthy. Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream is all-natural—but it’s very high in fat and calories. (Moderation is a good general rule.) 7UP is also all-natural, too, but has no nutritional value, even though this ad was likely created to get you to think otherwise.
3. Organic While organically grown food is a great option, remember that organic chocolate ice cream is still dessert. “Organic doesn’t necessarily imply that a food is nutritious or that it’s heart-healthy,” says Cynthia Sass, R.D., American Dietetic Association spokesperson. “It can actually be a high source of calories, sodium, or any other number of nutrients that people should avoid.” More: Can You Tell Fact from Fiction in Food Labels?
4. Fresh Proclaiming a food or foods are fresh seems pointless. How many products would advertise “Now Frozen!” or “Yesterday’s Bread”?
5. Energy boosting That great energy booster, caffeine, is being added to everything from water to lollipops, but remember, caffeine-laden energy drinks and products are made up of mostly sugar and chemicals. For a natural energy boost, try taking a walk, heaving a healthy meal, or getting more sleep.
6. Antioxidants See superfoods. Fruits and vegetables have antioxidants. Eat them.
7. Sun-kissed, or drenched Unless it’s hydroponically grown in an artificially lit greenhouse, most everything is sun-kissed, including pure sugar.
8. Probiotic This word is 100% the work of good marketing, as people scramble for fermented foods that have been consumed for centuries and that some say still have unproven health benefits.
9. Whole What is a whole food? Have we been eating too many half foods? Important when it comes to grains, the “whole” labeling has gotten out of hand. Fruits and vegetables are whole foods, too, and they don’t need labels to tell us.
10. Diet Foods and drinks labeled “diet,” “low-carb,” or “sugar-free” are often filled with chemicals. Read the nutritional information. The labels are there to guide you.
11. 7-grain (or any number of grains) Watch out here: Some grains are more nutritious than others. Look for high-fiber and 100% whole-grain breads, and check that the overall product doesn’t include multiple sources of sugar and other flavors and preservatives.
12. 100 calories It’s often not a filling portion, is it? So we wind up consuming more than we should. If you really need help with portion control, have an apple or a banana instead. Both have about the same amount of calories and are much more satisfying.
13. Healthy What’s healthy is a judgment call if ever there was one. People are on different diets with different needs. One man’s healthy food is another man’s poison. Looking for what’s healthy at the supermarket? Skip the promises on a label, and shop for fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and fish.