Label Claims: Too Good to Be True?

Some labels try to make not-very-healthy foods seem like they’re nutritious, while others take healthy food and make them less nutritious. What should you believe?
food labels

There are some packaged foods that make me want to scream! Some try to make not-very-healthy foods seem like they’re super nutritious, while others take healthy food and make them less nutritious. Oftentimes the first thought in my mind is "who thought this up?" Check out these outlandish foods, and keep in mind that if a label claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You're better off eating real, whole foods over packaged or manufactured foods any day.

This candy is marketed as having "the deliciousness and instant gratification of candy, packed with super benefits." It’s packed with a variety of B-vitamins, the antioxidant vitamins C and E, and a variety of electrolytes.

Instead: Be careful popping these over-fortified candies. Eat a balanced meal to get B-vitamin from proteins, vitamin C and potassium from fruit and veggies, vitamin E from healthy fats, and electrolytes from dairy.

These cookies contain 20 essential vitamins and mineral plus 3 grams of fiber. They come in a variety of 4 flavors too. The website touts that these cookies have "as much iron as a cup of spinach" and "as much vitamin C as a cup of blueberries."

Instead: Eat a cup of spinach and blueberries. What happened to real food?

This is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the crust. It can be stored in the freezer so you can grab and go.

Instead: Make your own PBamp;J on whole-grain bread and cut off the crust.

You’ll get one gram of fiber with every package of Splenda. It’s marketed to help you bump up your fiber intake to meet the recommended 25 grams per day.

Instead: Meet your fiber needs by eating real food! Eat a balanced diet with whole grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, and nuts which all contain fiber.

These are pre-sliced and packaged apples which need ascorbic acid (a.k.a. vitamin C) added so they don’t brown.

Instead: If you’re too busy to slice an apple…

A single-use mixture of pancake batter—all you do is add water to the container, mix, and pour. The mix also contains some funky sounding ingredients like dried eggs whites and defatted soy flour, which you won't find in the traditional version.

Instead: Get out your bowls and mixing cups and use the boxed mix if you don’t want to measure out the actual pancake ingredients.  At least you can get more than one use out of the boxed versions. But do try making pancakes from scratch, it's surprisingly simple.

This product is exactly what it sounds like: bacon-flavored mayonnaise spread. The website touts that it has 10 calories less than regular mayonnaise  per serving (though it also contains the same amount of saturated fat and 1 gram more sugar per serving).

Instead: Stick to regular, reduced fat, or olive oil mayo (check out our favorite picks). Add bacon when you really feel the need.

#8: SumSeeds

These "energizing" sunflower seeds have caffeine, several amino acids and ginseng added.

Instead: Choose traditional sunflower seeds. Some of these add-ins can be downright dangerous for your heart and overall health. They can also interact with some medications that you may be taking.

This buttery spray is marketed as being calorie-free. According to food labeling guidelines, any food that contains fewer than 5 calories per serving can be labeled as “calorie free.” Unfortunately, if you like a lot of that buttery goodness on your food you’ll be racking up calories.

Instead: Use tub margarine or spray olive oil. This way you can control the calories and not be blindsided by the inaccurate claims.

TELL US: What’s the most ridiculous food you’ve seen?

You Might Also Like:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

Next Up

Be Wary of These Top 5 Label Claims

Beware of these five misleading claims found on food packaging.

Reading Food Labels

Get the facts on saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.

Label Decoder: Pectin

You’ve seen it on hundreds of labels and may have even used it in your own kitchen—learn all the need-to-know facts about this additive.

Label Decoder: Diacetyl

Before you pop your next bag of microwave popcorn, find out more about an additive used in some brands.

Label Decoder: Carrageenan

This ingredient is found in foods like ice cream, jelly and even infant formula. Find out what it does and if it’s safe to eat.

Label Decoder: Olestra

When I was in graduate school, some of my fellow dietetic students tracked down one of the first stores where the nonfat fried chips were being sold. The employee that answered the phone explained how he’d downed an entire package and had a horrible stomach ache (though he was a bit more descriptive of his symptoms). From that day on, I knew chips fried in Olestra weren’t all they were cracked up to be.

Label Decoder: Lecithin

You can find lecithin in food and in supplements, but what is it and is it good for you? Find out more about this added ingredient and how it’s used in the processing plant.

Label Decoder: Sulfites

If you’re a wine drinker, you’ve probably seen the word sulfite listed on most wine bottles. Find out why they’re used in most wines and if wine-lovers should find a new drink?

Decoding Meat Labels

The 9 things you need to know when you’re at the grocery store or butcher.

Is Nutritionally-Balanced Pizza Too Good to Be True?

A Glasgow University scientist claims he's created a nutritionally-balanced pizza that can be eaten at every meal.

Related Pages