You're Buying Healthy, But Are You Getting Healthy?
by Shelley Wake
The Top 5 Tips for Reading Food Labels
No matter what health or nutritional product you are purchasing, it is being made by a company to make them money. As people start to be interested in purchasing healthy products, companies begin to promote their products as being healthy. But does that mean the products are actually healthier? In many cases, the products stay exactly the same and only the packaging and the price changes.
Spotting the Gimmicks
One pizza company advertises their pizzas as "baked, not fried." Have you ever bought a pizza that has been fried? The fact is that almost all pizzas are oven-baked so this company isn't offering a healthier pizza. Some sweets now have claims like "99% Fat Free" written on them in big bold letters. This is meant to make the products seem like they are good for you. The truth is that most sweets will be 99% fat free, because they are based on sugar, not fat. These products are usually sold for more, because many people will pay more for a healthy option. The problem is that many of these products aren't any healthier than the cheaper brands.
A low fat content doesn't mean the product is healthy. Neither does a low sugar content if the fat is high, or a low cholesterol content if the sugar is high. To avoid gimmicks, read the nutritional information and compare it to the cheaper brand. If you find little difference, don't pay more for the "healthier" option.
The Big Trick: Playing on Your Guilt
Most products are created specifically to appeal to customers. How do companies appeal to customers? By considering what will motivate the customer to purchase. There are five major motivators and one of the most important in the health foods world is guilt. This is especially true for children's foods aimed at the buying parent. Parents tend to be busy trying to combine work needs with family needs. Add to these demands a world where the perfect family can be seen in any number of television programs and movies, and the parents begin to feel guilt. That's where the food companies step in. Recognizing that parents are feeling guilt, they try to offer solutions. They offer nutritious and easy school lunches, healthy microwave meals, and healthy breakfast cereals so you can be sure your kids do have the energy to pay attention all the way through their school day. In theory, this all sounds good. Parents want to look after their kids, food companies provide the products. The problem is that not all products are really healthy. In many cases, they are just average products with healthy labeling.
What Are You Really Buying?
To make smarter decisions, consider what you are really buying. A product labeled with "all-natural fruit" is not necessarily healthy. An apple is healthy. But an apple mixed with sugar, then packed into a pastry coating and fried is not so healthy. The packaging is not lying, it does still contain all-natural fruit. But what else does it contain?
Beware of any positive points on the packaging of the products. The truth is that every product has some good points, even the unhealthy ones. When companies decide on the packaging, they don't try to include all the information about the product. Instead, they pick the best points and emphasize those. To see the real story, read the nutritional information. It will tell you exactly what you're getting.
Other than that, just think about what the product really is once it is out of the packaging. The expensive "healthy" brand might appear better because it has pictures of fruit all over the box. The cheap brand may not appear quite so healthy. But you're not eating the box. The "healthy" breakfast cereal may show happy active children, but a breakfast cereal isn't really going to make your children happy and active. Ignore the packaging and consider the real differences in the product. Are there any? If so, you can be happy knowing you are paying more for a product that is actually healthier. If not, you can be happy knowing you are buying the cheaper brand that is just as good.
Take the Next Step
- Your groceries cost less when you get cash back! Checkout 51 can show you how!
- Once you trim the grocery budget, don't waste that extra money! Consider opening a savings account to start an emergency fund or save for some other financial goal.
- We are always finding new ways to help you trim food costs. Visit our food & groceries section each week to get tips for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
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