If you are feel like you’re digging yourself in a hole when trying to eat healthy, it might be because you are being deceived. Businesses have sneaky strategies to persuade people into buying their products by creating eye candy packaging. In this article we are going to focus on how labelling and design attracts customers to unhealthy foods.
The Labelling Loophole
What’s the first ingredient that comes to your mind when there’s a decrease in energy? Processed white sugar! Companies will get rid of white sugar in their foods but replace it with different types of sweeteners. By doing that, food corporations can label their packaging to say sugar-free, no sugar added, diet, or even low-calorie. These labels trick consumers into assuming the companies will use healthy sugar like sugar cane juice or no sugar at all. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case; processed sugar is replaced with low-calorie/artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Sadly, some of these low-calorie sweeteners, like aspartame, aren’t entirely safe. According to an article on Cancer.org and Healthline (reviewed by Natalie Butler, who is registered and licensed dietitian), aspartame can be very toxic if you have a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU). For others who don’t have PKU, aspartame symptoms can result in people feeling dizzy, sleepy, and developing a headache.²
There are artificial sweeteners that are safe to eat, such as sucralose, but they’re often still unhealthy. In a Harvard T.H Chan: School of Public Health article, many sweeteners are linked with type 2 diabetes, increased blood sugar, insulin levels, and appetite.
So, it’s true that companies aren’t using sugar, but they’re replacing it with something that’s still unhealthy. No wonder people have trouble accomplishing their fitness goals.
Advertising sugar-free isn’t the only strategy companies are using. Labeling food fat-free, low fat, or no-fat insinuates that they are healthier, but that is often a lie! There are “good” fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and “bad” fats like trans fats. When looking at nutrition facts on the back of the packaging, the “good” fats are usually higher percentage and also higher in calories compared to the “bad” fats. Some companies take out the natural fats from foods and sub in sugar, palm oil, or hydrogenated oil. These sub-ins , such as, hydrogenated oil, can affect your heart health, increase inflammation, strokes, heart attacks, and cause you to develop Type-2 diabetes. ³ The nutrition facts can be very misleading. It’s important to look at the nutrition values, but also check the ingredients because you never know what you’re absorbing.³
Another strategy is that food corporation’s label “natural” on their packaging. What does that really mean? An article from Green City Blue Lake, claimed that “Food labeled “natural,” according to the USDA definition, does not contain artificial ingredients or preservatives and the ingredients are only minimally processed. However, they may contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and other similar chemicals.” Can growth hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals have side effects on the human body? Yes, they can. For example, a CBS news article (CBS News, April 20, 2012) writes that antibiotics in animals are showing an increase in drug-resistant germs that can make antibiotics helpless against infections. Products that have “natural” displayed on the packaging are not always natural.
Design the Brand
Food brand companies need catchy names and gorgeous designs to attract customers. Corporations create a title for their product that’s associated with “beauty standard words” like slim, thin, skinny, or sometimes associated with words that remind people of fitness like diet, protein, or nature. To increase their consumption food businesses create an attractive design. Displaying nature photos or putting certain colours on the packaging can increase the chance of someone buying the food product. Colours can often make the brand more appealing to people; for example, green is used because it’s related to nature, health, and luck. Consumers aren’t just tricked into buying companies’ brands by reading the name, but also by looking at images and colours on the container. Food products may have a beautiful design and be marked well, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy for you.
By observing these strategies, you can become a smart shopper and avoid unhealthy products. Watch out for harmful ingredients and always check what’s in your food. It’s okay to have treats once in awhile, just don’t make a habit out of it. Also, keep in mind that food companies tend to change or update their ingredients once in a while. If you really want to achieve becoming healthier, it’s best to cook your own meals. You gain a better understanding what ingredients can make, and where the nutrition is coming from.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team (February 11, 2019). Does Aspartame Cause Cancer?, Under: Can aspartame be avoided? Accessed 28 October 2020.
Healthline Editorial Team (September 17, 2018). The Truth About Aspartame Side Effects, Under: Phenylketonuria and Other. Accessed 22 October 2020.
Harvard T.H Chan: School of Public Health (2020). Low-Calorie Sweeteners, Under Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Health. Accessed 22 October 2020.
Link, Rachael (September 25, 2019). What Is Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil? Accessed 22 October 2020.
Mayo Clinic Staff ( Feb. 13, 2020) Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health, Under: How trans fat harms you. Accessed 28 October 2020.
Cleveland Museum of Natural History (2020). What Do Food Labels Really Mean? Under: Natural. Accessed 22 October 2020.
CBS New’s Associated Press (April 12, 2012). CBS News: Are Antibiotics In Meat Bad for Humans? Under: History. Accessed 22 October 2020.