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When you are trying to eat clean and lose weight, looking at food labels is a must to ensure that you are eating the best foods to reach your weight-loss goals.  However, even the smartest consumers can fall prey to clever marketing tactics of food manufacturers.  Here is a list of some terms that manufacturers use to make consumers believe their food item is the healthiest choice.

Fat-free: The term “fat-free” is misleading.  There are many products that are labeled fat-free but are not necessarily healthy.  This is because fat-free does not mean calorie-free.  Fat-free products tend to be loaded with sugar and calories and not very healthy at all.  Instead of associating fat-free with a healthy choice, pay close attention to the grams of sugar and calorie content of the food item in question.

Gluten-free: We often assume that foods labeled gluten-free are healthy.  Gluten is a protein found in grains, such as wheat.  People with gluten intolerance or celiac disease should not consume gluten at all.  While gluten-free options are important for people who cannot eat gluten, gluten-free foods are not necessarily healthier than food with gluten.  They typically contain more sugar and salt but less fiber.  To read more on gluten-free misconceptions, check out our previous blog post.

Sugar-free: Sugar-free does not always mean sugar-free.  According to the FDA, a product that contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving is labeled as sugar-free.  So, these foods may not contain sugar, or at least not a lot of it, but they may still contain calories and carbohydrates from other sources.  Many times, sugar-free products contain more calories.  Sugar-free products also may contain sugar substitutes and sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol.

Zero Trans Fat: Trans fat is the most unhealthy form of fat you can consume.  Ideally, you would not consume foods that contain trans fat, considering how bad it is for your cardiovascular health.  Trans fat are abundant in foods that are overly processed.  The fine print on trans fat is tricky.  Foods that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in one serving can have the zero trans fat label.  This means that if you eat more than one serving of a “zero trans fat” food item that does indeed contain small amounts of trans fat, the grams will add up quickly.  The trick here is to read the food label and look for the term “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.”  If this item is listed on the label, that food item definitely contains trans fat and should be avoided when trying to lose weight.

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