Beware The Health Halo

Don't Be Fooled By Food Labels

Despite the recent publicity surrounding the harmful effects of many processed foods, I find it hard to believe that many food manufacturers are concerned with the health and wellbeing of their consumers. In most cases they seem to be concerned with how much product they can shift and how they can price and label it to make us buy it. The health halo is a term used for the way that food marketers trick us into believing a food is good for us by using words on the labels which we, the general public, associate with health.

For example, you might be tempted to buy a product with “all natural" ingredients. But what does that mean? Did you know that a food item can be dehydrated, fermented, fumigated, microwaved, smoked and treated with toxic gases and still labelled "natural"?

A popular brand of "natural" lollies contains about 4 teaspoons of added sugar per serve, and how big is a serve? Three small lollies. I don’t know many people, especially kids, who stop at three lollies. I certainly don’t, but hey, they’re "natural" so they must be good for me.

What about the little pot of “high fibre” “low fat” breakfast yoghurt I might be tempted to buy on my way to work. Surely that’s a healthy option? So for the huge bonus of 3gms of fibre (only about 10% of daily requirements), the product also contains a whopping 5 teaspoons of added sugar which, according to the World Health Organisation, is my daily allowance in one little 150gm pot. The reason for the extra sugar? If you remove the fat you remove the flavour. Adding in the extra sugar keeps our taste buds happy.

What about the “multigrain” bread that is white bread with a few seeds? Or the “low fat” chicken nuggets which contain over 60 ingredients – none of them chicken? And have you noticed how many protein bars there are out there? That’s because market research shows that the Australian public associates the word “protein” with health and so now we are faced with an army of overpriced, over processed, synthetic protein bars everywhere we turn.

In reality, the only person who can really care about your health is you. Be mindful that many foods labelled with terms such as - healthy, low fat, low sugar, part of your 5 a day, low cholesterol, organic, gluten free, natural, fibre, wholegrain, multigrain, lower calorie, contains whole fruit, reduced, light, lite, lower, no added sugar, fat free, cholesterol free, omega -3 – are anything but healthy.

Try to choose food that isn't packaged or processed, and which comes without a label, and remember – don’t believe the hype.