how food advertisement fool you 1
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Have you noticed how a 3 years old kid gets hooked to advertisements? Agree or not, we love watching food advertisements. And why not? After all, they claim to help us with exactly what we struggle for. Right? “Instant”/“ready to cook”/“ready to eat” foods with “nutrition”- what else can be better to start a busy day? In fact, sometimes they are kind enough to “fortify” foods “added with extra vitamins/ minerals”. Who does so much these days other than food advertisements? Watching food advertise always gives us hope, happiness, and relief.

Do you make your food choice based on food advertisements? Do you read the food labels carefully before buying any product? Highlighted fancy words on food packets are often found to be complete lies. Shocked? Here are the top six false food claim which is misleading us every day.

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False food advertisement 1- No Sugar added / Sugar-free:

If you are looking for weight loss or a healthy diet, these terms have definitely caught your attention. But the fact is products with “no sugar” or “sugar-free” are still sweet or have a great taste. A close look at their label will show these products do contain honey/ high fructose corn syrup/ malt/ dextrin or sugar alcohol like maltitol or sorbitol. Remember, there are at least 61 NAMES OF SUGAR. An absence of direct sugar does not mean an absence of sugar calories.

False food advertisement 2- No Trans Fat/Zero Trans Fat:

Have you noticed this term is often used on the food packets? Trans fats are extremely harmful to the heart. Generally, processed foods contain cheap refined seed or vegetable oil (eg- soybean oil) which are often get hydrogenated during processing and form trans fat. Therefore anything like “partially hydrogenated oil,” “hydrogenated vegetable oil,” or “shortening” mentioned on the ingredients list actually contains trans fats, no matter what the label says.
The FDA currently allows products containing below 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can be labeled as ‘zero trans fat’. That means, if you are NOT restricting yourself to consume just one serving, some trans fat will definitely go into your system. Please note, generally, we eat way more than just one serving size as mentioned on the food label. These trans fats may raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL (good cholesterol) levels and thus increase the risk of heart disease.

False food advertisement 3- All Natural/ Real Ingredients/Made with real fruits:

Do you get attracted by this phrase imagining all you are eating is fresh and natural? Food companies highlight these to mislead the consumers for projecting a healthy angle which is nothing but a blatant lie. The phrase “All Natural” has no regulation in any way by the FDA. It means any food including foods made with artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, chemical preservatives can be freely labeled as “All Natural”. The term “Real ingredients” means absolutely nothing. A phrase like “Made with real fruits” can be written on a completely synthetic fruit juice. Shocking right?

False food advertisement 4- Made with whole grain/ Multigrain:

Do NOT fall for the beautiful advertisement showing various grains and cereals mixed together to make the perfect soft healthy bread. No. The reality is NOT that great. The truth of the matter is mostly multi-grain bread can either be made of over-processed multigrain with complete loss of nutritional goodness or, simple white bread with a caramel coloring which doesn’t make it any more healthy than refined white bread.

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False food advertisement 5- Low carb/ Low fat/ Low calorie/ Light/ Lite:

Mentioning “low fat” at the label means added fats are replaced by added sugar for cost control. Surprised? No, I am not making it up. It’s a reality.
Similarly “low carb” means nothing. A complete processed food can claim to be “low carb” just because this term catches more attention because of the “low carb” diet trend.
What is the first thing comes in your mind when you read the term “light” on the packet? You may believe “light” in terms of “low calorie” or “low fat” or “low card” or “low sugar” and your expectations are right. As per FDA or USDA, when a food label claims the product to be” light” ideally that should indicate that the product has 1/3 rd of less calorie or 50% less fat than a comparable product. But, most of the oil and oil-based products play around this word and highlight “light/lite” in terms of flavor, taste, or color. Do you often wonder how even after eating all “light” you are getting heavier?

False food advertisement 6- Fortified/ Enriched:

It feels great to know that your favorite noodles/biscuits/oil/milk/ bread etc are added with “extra” vitamins – A, D, E, C, or minerals like calcium/iron/ zinc/magnesium, etc. But the reality is these added micro-nutrients do NOT actually make the products healthy. Understand the fact that the product itself is made up of refined ingredients. Next, after going through excessive processing to make the product “ready to eat” or “ready to cook” no nutrition is left. Then adding micro-nutrient to it does not make the product any superior as these nutrients often do not get absorbed in our body.
Not only lack of nutrients, overdosing food with nutrients is equally harmful to our body. The serving size mentioned in the label is often way less than the actual consumption. Mind it.

What to do?

Enough of being literate, let’s get educated first.

1. Always read the label first

Don’t believe the advertisement or the “false claim” at the front. Check the back of the packet to get the actual information. Focus on two areas –
Ingredient list
• Serving size

Ingredient list :

Count the number of ingredients – lesser is better.

Read all the ingredients. A good product should contain known natural ingredients. If 50% of the ingredients are difficult to pronounce and various chemicals, you know what exactly you are eating. Always avoid products with a long list of ingredients.

Amount of ingredients – from higher to lower

Always look for the first 3 ingredients. These 3 ingredients are the actual product. The ingredient list always mentions the ingredient first which has been added most in the product. Yes, they order the ingredients as per the amount added to the final product. So if you are buying chocolate, the first ingredient ideally should be chocolate. If sugar or any other form of sugar (they are in 61 different names) is the first ingredient in the list. Keep no doubt irrespective of the advertisement or the claim made at the front of the packet, you are buying nothing but SUGAR.

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Serving size –

Once you are done with reading the ingredients, focus on the serving size. Most of the time the serving sizes are very small and unrealistic. We eat way more than one serving size at one sitting. So if “ ready to eat” cornflakes claim 175 calories per serving (30 gm), it means it provides 175 calories per 30 gm which is roughly 2 tablespoons. Do you eat 2 tablespoons of cornflakes at breakfast? Check it out. Ideally, you need to multiply the calorie based on your actual consumption.
Stop following the food advertisement. Make a habit of reading the label.

2. Start loving your kitchen

Yes, there is no way out. Food is basic in your life. Respect it. Give some time to cook your own food. First, you need a smart kitchen NOT a smart-looking modular kitchen. Get good wholesome ingredients, follow a simple recipe and cook your food. It takes much less time and effort than you think. Plan your meal and try to enjoy cooking for the sake of self-love. There is no other way.

Bottom Line

Following celebs are fine but not when it comes to food advertisement. They hardly consume what they endorse. You are literate. Now it’s high time to get educated on what you are actually buying. Don’t fall for the front of the packet. Always check the back- the ingredient list and the serving size. Reading the food label will tell you about the actual product irrespective of all its claim at the front or an advertisement. More than 90% of packaged and processed foods will disappoint if you start checking its label. Yes, they are nothing but JUNK.
Stop running after offers on packaged products. Start respecting homemade foods. Spend some time in the kitchen. After all, it’s your health. Trust me, there are no alternatives.

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Dr. Soma Chakrabarty is based in Hyderabad. She has 15 yrs of working experience in nutrition. She guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve goals for wellness. She believes in a practical diet that helps people to live rather than survive.

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  • Izzat Husain , 18th June 2019 @ 3:42 am

    Very nice article Doma

  • Amatulla merchant , 18th June 2019 @ 5:45 pm

    Nic and informative

  • Arvind Kumar , 21st June 2019 @ 10:10 am

    Good article Soma. Amongst artificial sweeteners whichone is better sucralose or stevia based.?

  • Larry , 3rd September 2019 @ 3:36 am

    Big disagreements with this atticle. This thing about unpronouncible ingredients being bad for you. What happens when you learn to pronounce it? Is it OK now?

    And the trem “natural” means nothing. Cyanide is natural.

    Also, you insuate that chemicals are bad. Everything is a chemical.

    • Dr. Soma Chakrabarty , 3rd September 2019 @ 4:01 pm

      Thanks Larry for your comment. Certainly my views are different from you. Good joke on unpronounceable ingredients. Going by your logic every ultra processed food is great for chemists as then can pronounce them all. Really? Yes, everything is chemical…even cyanide. But I don’t think that comes under edible category.
      My entire point of writing the article was to make people aware how advertisements play with words. …how after going through ultra processing methods most of the nutrients in food get destroyed….how various edible chemicals like additives, preservatives are added to keep the colour, flavor, texture, shelf life of the product. So at the end what are you getting? A substance which look or tastes like food but actually nothing but sugar and preservatives.

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