‘Healthy’ and ‘Fat-Free’ Food Labels Won’t Always Help Your Diet

How many times have you bought a food item or two which had the label “fat-free” and “healthy” plastered on it and automatically thought it’s good for you? Way too many times, we’re guessing. However, it seems that our knowledge on what’s healthy will soon take a drastic turn.

There have been news recently on the redefining of the word “healthy” in the food we eat daily. One particular example is the US Food and Drug Administration’s decision to bring back the healthy label on Kind bars. But why are people making a huge fuss over a granola bar?

For one, the FDA’s standard of healthy is less than one gram of saturated per serving and receive not more than 15 percent calories from the saturated fat. And yes, products with nuts, including granola bars, violate that standard regardless of itsnutritional benefits. But food items like avocados and salmon are widely considered healthy yet also violate these terms.

And those fat-free items made with organic ingredients that you like so much may be unhealthy for you too.

But how does this affect us here in the Philippines? Well, aside from the fact that we import stuff from the US, we also get a good look on how we should further improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. That we should look past the “fat-free” labeling and look up what they’re made of and how they’ll benefit you.

In an interview, food policy expert Marion Nestle says, “I recognize that the FDA’s rules appear absurd, but that’s what the FDA has had to do to prevent makers of candy-like products for making health claims for them. If it were up to me, the FDA would not allow claims on any food product, except perhaps for foods that are minimally processed, but that’s just me.”

This can also be an eye-opener for our local FDA to keep tabs on what our markets are considering healthy these days. You may be munching on “fat-free” chips, but it can contain high levels of sugar and sodium to compensate for the lack of saturated fat.

It’ll always boil down to what’s written between the lines (aka, the nutritional guidelines) and not how a product is marketed to the public.


Photo courtesy of Very Well

Jacqueline Arias: