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How to Read Food Labels to Avoid Greenwashing

“Make sure to read the fine print!” We all remember that warning when it comes to contracts or home purchases, but how easy it is to allow our eyes to be drawn to the big disclaimers in large letters when we purchase our weekly groceries. “No trans fat!” says one. “Zero fat,” and “low in sugar” claim others. Fact check: often products that claim to wear the “health-food” label actually zero out any benefit by raising the damage in other categories. For example, what good is it for your favorite salad dressing to now be fat free when it contains 21 g of sugar instead?
If you can recall, earlier this month we discussed macronutrients. Specifically, 1 g of carbs and protein equate to 4 calories whereas 1 g of fats is actually 2.25x that, coming in at 9 calories/gram. Additionally, we also chatted about how your body processes sugar most readily, so unless quickly utilized we are more prone to store excess calories this way in storage form. Let’s walk through this next picture example (labeled by and prepare you for your next Aldi run.



















The first element from this product that is worth noting is the 5 g of sugar. That’s not astronomical. A Mountain Dew is probably 12x that. However, understand that these are all added sugars as opposed to the natural form found in apples, bananas, etc. Challenge yourself to consider the sources of each element of a food product.


Secondly, stop and think: What’s the first thing that you gravitate towards when you grab a product from the shelves? Is it the “natural” and “real milk” that burst onto the scene in dark lettering (as shown above)? Is it the name brand? Perhaps it is the calories in totality? I preface this to say that I believe it is time we retrain our eyes. Understand what it is that you are looking for and where it can fit into your daily/weekly caloric intake. If you find yourself too often in an inflammatory response, consider switching to the aforementioned full fat dressing to alleviate those extra grams of sugar. This was, in fact, the case for me. I knew that I was a little high in my fat, so I changed up my topping on my post-workout meal. I began to notice more breakouts on my face and switched back. Guess what went away, as well? Yup. Less sugar (for me, at least) means less breakouts.


Another strategy utilized by producers right under our very noses is the idea of “greenwashing.” This simply is the concept of appealing to those environmentally-conscious consumers by placing less than credible claims of their work in saving the Earth. You’ll see lingo, similar to the above image, such as “all natural,” “eco-friendly,” “non-toxic,” “organic,” “non-GMO” and the list goes on. My encouragement to you is to do your due diligence as to what (if anything) said company has done to truly better the world around us. Some claims are indeed viable, don’t get me wrong; but also don’t feel like you need to purchase the ‘organic’ version just because it is 3x the price. There is often very little difference, to be quite honest.


In summary, when it comes to reading nutrition labels, keep it simple. Remember our discussions on calories and macronutrients. Nutrition can be complicated but it also doesn’t need to be. Trends and new diets and novice terms may come and go, but the general concepts have largely stayed the same for the better half of a century. Keep it simple, and as always, hit us/me up with questions/struggles/victories you’ve had in the nutrition realm. Food is a gift. Food is fuel. Eat to win.


Until next time,

Brock Baumgarn CA, Nutrition Consultant, Health 1st Chiropractic


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