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Beware of deceptive food packages that sabotage diets

Lana Bandoim's picture

As you browse the aisles of your local grocery store or look through your own kitchen cabinets, you may notice the persuasive techniques being used by the manufacturers. The current trend is to label things with promises of health, vitality and weight loss. Brands boast about their low-calorie contents and antioxidant properties. However, there is a dark side to the food packaging industry that may be sabotaging your diet.


Good versus evil packages

The cardboard boxes that contain your favorite whole grain pasta, or the plastic boxes that have your blueberries are probably innocuous. However, the chips that claim to be low-calorie yet still have a high sodium content and GMO ingredients fall into a different category. Good packaging designs are clear and do not hide the true nature of their contents. On the other hand, deceptive designs can trick you into consuming food that leads to weight gain and misery.

Food marketing and packages

The food marketing industry has learned that highlighting the benefits of a product can be more persuasive than simply listing the features. Historically, children have been the targets of marketing campaigns and advertising, but the food industry has not neglected adults. Current packaging trends are focused on making each product appealing, beneficial and necessary.

Deceptive packaging practices to recognize

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There are multiple techniques being used by food manufacturers to create deceptive packages that make you believe you are buying something healthy and good. If you learn to recognize these common practices, then you can lose weight faster. You will also be empowered to make better choices that improve your health.

1. Manipulating ingredient lists. Manufacturers have learned that long names can confuse consumers, and they have mastered a variety of techniques to make it more difficult to understand the real ingredients. A common practice is to split up the sugar content among different ingredients, so they do not have to be listed first. If you are reading an ingredient list, the first item is the one that is at the highest amount in the product. Brands can make you think sugar is not one of the top ingredients by using more than one type. For example, some products will have a combination of high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar and sucrose, but none of them will be first on the list.

2. Creating health hype. Another common technique is to create hype and make you believe that the product is healthy. This may include emphasizing herbs or other healthy ingredients on the front of the package. However, the back of the package reveals that these healthy ingredients are actually in tiny quantities.

3. Manipulating portion sizes. This common practice involves making serving sizes confusing or deliberately small, so you think the products are healthy. It is also used by manufacturers to hide the actual amount of unhealthy trans fatty acids per serving. According to the FDA guidelines, a brand does not have to list the amount of trans fatty acids if it is less than 0.5 grams, so companies make the serving size smaller to make sure they fit the rules.

If you want to make sure you are selecting healthy options, you can use apps such as Fooducate or CSPI Chemical Cuisine to understand what you are buying. The key is to educate yourself about food packaging, so you make smarter choices that help you lose weight.

Image from Pixabay.com and used with permission.