Actress Brett Butler was in a 1990’s sitcom called “Grace Under Fire”. I believe that it was on for 3 seasons but I only saw the program twice- – and it was the same episode! Grace was a single Mom in a factory job, with the same struggles that most single Mom’s face: paying the bills, the stress of finding reliable child care and good schools. In this particular episode she decides to get her friends together to discuss issues important to women, like getting equal pay for equal work. But all that her friends want to do is answer the question “if I eat an entire fat-free cake, then why do I still gain weight?”
This is a great example of a “health halo” effect: thinking that a food is good for you because of a claim on the front of the package. You might also remember the Seinfeld episode about the fat-free frozen yogurt.
Phrases like “all natural”, “healthy”, “low- fat”, “No fat”, “no added sugar”, “gluten-free”, ” vegan” on the front of the package can be distracting. So much so that you might neglect to turn the package over to see that there are still calories to count or other ingredients to avoid. When was the last time that you bought a granola bar that didn’t resemble a candy bar with a few pieces of cereal sprinkled on it? But you packed in your lunch anyway because it would make a “healthy snack”.
For now, be cautious with marketing that appeals directly to your good intentions. Always look at the nutrition fact panel to get the low down on calories, fat and sugar content. Take a quick look at the ingredient list, too; this is like reading the recipe and can tell you more about how the food was prepared. Only then can you make an informed decision without the marketing bias.