EXPERTS STRESS THE NEED FOR CONSUMERS TO LOOK PAST ADVERTISING CLAIMS ON PRE-PACKAGED FOODS AND TO BE GUIDED BY THE ACTUAL NUTRITION INFORMATION INSTEAD

The various arms of the food industry have a single goal and that is to sell as much of their product as possible. Thus, whether it be prepared food, fast-food, pre-packaged food, or restaurant food, the marketing "hype" must be separated from the reality of what is actually in the food. Marketing devices, which have no real nutritional value, include such gimmicks as: low fat; nutritious; all natural; low sodium; low carb; fortified; heart healthy; lite; no added sugar; net carbs; sweetened with fructose, cancer fighting; and cholesterol lowering.

Many products sold under these claims are really unhealthy. In other cases, any "healthy" benefit of the product is far outweighed by ingredients which can have an extremely negative effect on your health. In all too many situations, the claims are simply false. Nutrition experts point to the following examples of false or misleading advertising designed to do nothing more than sell food.

Cereals that are touted as "heart healthy" are loaded with salt which is linked to high blood pressure.

"Low fat" products are usually high in sugar or carbohydrates thus making them of little value in any serious weight loss or diabetic diet.

"Low sugar" products are usually high in fats or carbohydrates which make them counterproductive to a weight loss program.

"No added sugar" products may have no additional sugar added during preparation but, invariably the label discloses high natural sugar content already present in the food which makes the claim rather misleading. Just consider a product that is loaded with raisins, bananas, or another high sugar fruit or vegetable.

"Lite" is a word that means nothing at all since it has no context and is used without making a comparison to either a standard or another product.

"All natural" products may be quite misleading since many "natural" substances are far from healthy. Tobacco, asbestos, salt, and sugar are all natural yet they are all linked with diseases, serious medical conditions, and death.

The claim of low "net carbs" infuriates nutritionists since the human body has no way of distinguishing between a "net" carb and any other carb.

Products may be loaded with sugar in a form that the consumer may not recognize. Fructoses, lactose, sugar alcohol, are as much sugars as the more familiar form, sucrose.

Restaurant food (fast or otherwise) usually contains higher levels of salt, sugar, and fat than a customer would ever imagine.

Recently, an investigative reporter from a major network was tipped off that a successful restaurant in Great Neck, New York, which touted all of its food as low calorie, low carb, low sodium, or low fat was simply selling ordinary high calorie, high carb, high sodium, and high fat food with bogus nutritional content labels. When samples of each food was tested by an independent laboratory the results confirmed that the restaurantís customers had been misled into eating food that was exactly the opposite of what it was claimed to be. The customers who were interviewed were outraged by the restaurantís conduct.

What do the experts recommend? Nutritionists and doctors specializing in diabetes, cardiology, weight control, and ophthalmology strongly urge consumers to become acquainted with the recommended daily amounts of sugar, sodium, fat they should be consuming and then read the nutritional information on food packages to be sure they remain reasonable within the guidelines. (As on expert points out, some cans of soup have almost a full dayís worth of salt in a single 8 ounce serving. The same is true of the fat and salt content in many well-known fast-food items.) Learn what recommended portion sizes are and look like. (Nutritionists agree most people eat portions which are far too big.) Ask restaurants about the contents of their menu items and do not be embarrassed to ask them to prepare your food in a more healthy way if you are on a restricted diet. Asking to have something steamed or grilled instead of fried or sautÈed is not a crime. Donít add additional salt to prepared foods. Choose oil and vinegar over heavy dressings like French, Russian, bleu cheese, or Caesar. Drink water or sugar free beverages. Use sugar substitutes whenever possible. Eat smaller portions. None of these suggestions will harm you and many of them can save you from serious medical problems or life-threatening illnesses.

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