Food Claims & Why They Can Suck…

Ahhhh food claims.  You know the little blurbs on the front of a product that make grand promises such as: “All Natural” “Reduced Sodium” “No Sugar Added” you know- those little gems?  As a dietitian food claims make my life a hell- because they tell a consumer with little nutrition back a half truth.

These claims are clearly outlined by the FDA- so it’s not false advertising- but it’s more of like a lie of omission.  No sugar added does not mean sugar or carb free, reduced sodium does not mean sodium free, all natural is pretty open to interpretation.

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But as a consumer you should understand what these claims ACTUALLY mean, and how you can cut through all the BS by just turning the product around and looking at the Nutrition Facts Label.  Which you can conveniently find a guide for here.  🙂

1) Low calorie — this means less than 40 calories per serving.  That means one serving.  If a bag has 6 servings and you eat the whole bag that could be 40 x 6 = 240 calories.  Low calorie does not mean “eat as much as you please”

2) Low cholesterol — 20 mg or less of cholesterol PER SERVING and 2 grams or less of saturated fat

3) Reduced — at least 25% less of the specified nutrient/item (sodium, fat, calories) than the usual or “original” product.  Again reduced does not mean free

4) Good source of — An item provides at least 10-19% of the daily value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving.

**Be mindful of what else you are getting per serving- for example don’t buy juice that touts it’s a good source of vitamin c- but then it’s packed with sugar and artificial ingredients- for shits-sake eat an orange.

5) Fat-free/Sugar-free- less than 1/2 a gram (< 500 mg) of fat or sugar per serving.  In the case of sugar free and a diabetic individual- sugar free does not mean carbohydrate free.

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6) Low sodium — less than 140 mg of sodium PER SERVING (meaning if you have 3 servings of a product that has 140 mg of sodium per serving you ingested 420 mg of sodium – no longer low sodium

7) High in– provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving.

**Again you will want to use the Nutrition Facts label to discern if a product is worth it (meaning you are not getting a ton of extra salt/sugar etc, or if there is a better more natural alternative (fruit versus fruit juice).

8) High fiber– >5 g of fiber per serving

9) All Natural – hey guess what there is no real specification for this this is what the FDA has to say about it: “From a food science perspective it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has been processed and and is no longer a product of this earth.  That said, the FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives.  However, the agency has not objected to th use of the term if the food does not contain: added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”  

You stay classy FDA- here is the link

Meaning???? This definition is regulated but only to a certain extent.  It’s pretty open for interpretation.

All Natural DOES NOT mean organic.  It does not mean free of GMO’s- depite GMOs are anything but natural

Here is a link to an interesting article regarding the term all-natural, and if the government should be involved in determining what is all-natural.

The main claim is that some products are labeled all natural and they seem “all-natural” as there are only a few ingredients- however upon examination the soybean oil, flour, corn etc come from GMO sources.  My feelings on GMOs persist far beyond this blog post.  The bottom line is we have all been exposed to GMOs at this point, and probably are consistently in our food supply.  I don’t like it but by being smart consumers and doing more cooking versus purchasing convenience items- we are reducing our exposure to these “unfriendly” additives.

10) No Added Sugar.  This again means no ADDITIONAL sugar has been added.  Example: ice cream.  There is natural sugar (lactose) found in the milk, maybe a little table sugar, and some other stuff.  No added sugar DOES NOT mean sugar free or carb free.

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Reading the ingredient labels can help deduce added sugars, names for added sugars have a very wide array of names:

anhydrous dextrose

brown sugar

confectioners sugar/powdered sugar

corn syrup/corn syrup solids/high fructose corn syrup




invert sugar


malt syrup


maple syrup


fruit nectars

pancake syrup

raw/granulated sugar/sugar/sucrose

Additionally there are other ingredients that also function as being added sugars (they break down into sugar) that the FDA does not recognize as an ingredient name: cane juice, evaporated corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, crystal dextrose, glucose, liquid fructose, sugar cane juice, fruit nectar

All of these break down into sugar during digestion.  That is the bottom line.

The bottom botton line is: Regardless of the label claim, ALWAYS look at the ingredients list & the nutrition facts.

I have a few rules of thumb when I look at the ingredients/nutrition facts.  Now I am human so I still fancy ice cream and chocolate.

1) All ingredients in majority of the foods I purchase are words I recognize, and can pronounce (sugar, flour, etc).  As I said when I partake in some divine treats those are things that I really dont GAF what is in them.  🙂

2) If I buy a bread or grain I want at least 5 g of fiber per serving

3) Don’t try to drink something to get servings of fruit/veggies – EAT FRUITS AND VEGGIES

4) Use sugar, and sugar substitutes both in moderation, and with care. (I’ll expand on this in a future post).


Do you feel comfortable reading the Nutrition Facts label for information?

Do you find the food claims confusing?

When given the choice will you opt for sugar or a sugar sub (i.e. sucralose, stevia etc)?

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