“Good For You Labels” That Don’t Actually Mean Anything

Emily Monaco
(Photo: OBSEV / Shutterstock)

How annoying is it that even when you try to make good food choices, half the time your efforts don’t mean a thing?

Oh, sorry… was that news to you?

Here’s the skinny: half of the food labels that adorn the boxes, bags, and even produce that you buy, the labels which make you feel better about buying the things you buy—but which also send your grocery bill skyrocketing—don’t actually mean anything. Allow me to demonstrate by fingering some of the biggest culprits.


Mandy's Corner

There is no FDA-accepted definition for “natural,” which means that the companies behind Campbell’s soup, Kix cereal and Nature Valley granola bars can and do put the natural or all-natural label on them, even though those products contain, respectively, monosodium glutamate, trisodium phosphate and maltodextrin, not to mention a bunch of corn syrup pretty much everywhere you look. All-natural corn syrup is still corn syrup, guys. “Natural” doesn’t mean a damn thing.

If you’re worried about whether there are artificial ingredients and additives in your food, opt instead for the Certified Organic label, which doesn’t allow non-organic ingredients and often means that there are no GMOs in your food either.



Multi-grain is totally healthy, right? Well, here’s the thing. Multi-grain may, in fact, be marginally better than white flour, but you have to know a bit more about your grains before you can go around feeling good about yourself for buying this one.

Firstly, what are the grains being used? In order to be called multi-grain, the product in question must have at least two grains. One of these is likely wheat, which, because the product isn’t called whole grain, doesn’t necessarily have to be whole. Thus: white flour. The other grain is often corn or oats, and it’s often used in such small quantities that it doesn’t even matter.

To be sure that your multi-grain products are worth the extra money (and that they’re actually good for you), opt for a product that has at least three different grains, and try to find one that also uses whole grains. Instead of corn, try to find products using oats, spelt, or Khorasan wheat, which are much better for you than GMO corn, which is what’s often used in mass-produced products.


Certified Humane

This one makes you feel good, right? You think about the snuggly little lamb or cute little chicks that are behind your delicious lamb chops and chicken cutlets and think, “Well, at least they lived a good life.”

Here’s the thing: humane, as a label, doesn’t actually mean much of anything. In fact, certified-humane products were recently found by outside sources to be not so humane after all.

If animal welfare is important to you, choose the Animal Welfare Approved label, which has a long list of conditions producers must abide by in order to earn their stamp of approval.

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