“Food labels are carefully worded to entice shoppers to choose certain items,” writes the Food Network’s Toby Amidor. Here are the five tricks this celebrated nutritionist says fooled the greatest number of people in a recent survey:
“Fruit Chew vs. Candy Chew: The same food labeled with the word ‘fruit’ verses ‘candy’ had dieters opting for the fruit-labeled boxes with identical chews inside. If it doesn’t contain real fruit, it’s probably the same product with different flavoring.
“Pasta vs. Salads: Diners watching their calories often jump to the salad section over pasta, since that seems like the healthier choice. But not always: Toppings like avocado, cheese, beans, croutons, fried chicken or too much dressing drive salad calories sky-high . . . Ask the server how the salad is prepared, and if any of the toppings or dressings are optional.
“Flavored Water vs. Juice: Find yourself grabbing the ‘flavored’ water because it seems like the healthier choice? That’s what the Journal of Consumer research study found their subjects did. Water seems harmless, but many varieties are nothing more than sugar water. If sugar isn’t added, then oftentimes artificial sweeteners are. A glass of freshly squeezed juice may contain natural sugar called fructose, but also a variety of vitamins and minerals. If in doubt, real, unadulterated water is always a great choice.
“Veggie Chips vs. Potato Chips: Think veggie chips are healthier than potato chips? Think again: Aren’t potatoes vegetables? Any vegetable fried and made to look like a chip can be labeled a veggie chip, so don’t fall for that labeling trick! If you want chips (whether veggie or potato), be sure to stick to a reasonable portion (about 15 chips).
“Smoothies vs. Milkshakes: Milkshakes are loaded with fat and calories, but slap on a label that says ‘smoothie’ and dieters feel they’ve made a healthier decision. Be sure to inquire about the ingredients that go into that smoothie, and keep the portion size reasonable.
“Bottom line: Don’t fall into the naming trap — if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”