Lost in Aisle One: Misleading Phrases in the Grocery Store

A trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming (there's a reason we call it a chore). Even the fabled "quick" trip can turn into a harrowing, time-consuming endeavor spent vacillating between the All NaturalGluten-Free potato chips and the HealthyLow-Fat potato chips.

(Weren't chips, the epitome of an "impulse buy," supposed to be a quick and easy choice?)

In today's grocery aisles, deciphering the marketing jargon splashed across product labels is no easy task; nearly every product boasts nutritional benefits or some other miscellaneous perk. So how can we discern fact from fluff? 

Below are four labeling traps to be wary of:

All Natural
According to the FDA, no established definition exists for the label “natural” or any of its derivatives. Despite this, consumers are often misled by natural terminology into thinking a product is healthier, non-G.M.O., non-artificial, and void of preservatives. In actuality, the FDA holds this label to far lower standards than consumers do. Any product can carry "natural" on their packaging as long as there's no added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

From Atkins to Paleo, consumers need little convincing to adopt the latest diet fad. Gluten-Free diets are no exception. Forbidding any gluten intolerances, other shoppers should be aware that purchasing gluten substitutes might deprive you of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that whole grains offer, while introducing hyper-processed and sugar-heavy alternatives into your diet. 

As opposition for the DARK Act grows, so does consumer demand for Non-G.M.O. labeled foods and overall transparency. While the debate continues, don’t leave unlabeled products on the shelves so readily; if a product isn’t one of the big-four G.M.O. offenders (soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola), the ostensibly reassuring Non-G.M.O. label can be little more than a shady marketing ploy, best taken with a grain of salt

Superfood, like natural, is another unregulated term more suited for marketing teams than for conscious consumers, with sparse scientific evidence backing each claim.  While many notorious superfoods (acai, quinoa, and kale) are in fact nutrient dense foods, believing that each will produce dietary miracles, or that it will reverse the negative effects of other harmful foods you eat, is often mere myth. 

All in all, make sure to fully digest a product’s promises before checking it off your shopping list.