Perspectives On...

Learn the Label Lingo

Claims, labels and terms to master before navigating the aisle

In a world filled with choice, a food label can be like a beacon of fluorescent light in the middle of a grocery aisle. Nutritional content, ingredients – this is information that helps. But then there are labels that mislead or confuse rather than clarify, hindering your ability to pick out healthy, nutritious food for you and your family – no matter the claim.

We want to help you wade through the words. So when labels lie, you know the facts behind how your food is grown and raised.

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    "As a registered dietitian and mom, I’d like to help..."

    Jodie Shield, RDN

    Expert
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    "Antibiotic free, organic, natural... What do these claims really mean?"

    Stephanie Kush

    Mom
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    "It's up to us to read labels, pay attention and..."

    Holly Spangler

    Farmer
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LABELS DON'T HAVE TO MISLEAD

With all of the conflicting headlines, eating healthy has become so confusing and quite frankly, downright scary. As a registered dietitian and mom who shares your concerns, I’d like to help you become more than a headline reader in the grocery store.

I think one misconception regards anything that’s labeled organic. Moms want to know if, for health reasons, they should really buy organic products. I tell them there is no research saying organic is more nutritious or better. It is a lifestyle preference. 

Personally, I’m not concerned about GMOs in my food, either. I’m OK with it, but I do respect the fact that people want to know more about it. Learn the facts about GMOs – both pros and cons – from reliable sources like National Academy Report, GMO Answers and the FDA. Get the full story and make the right call for feeding your family.

Start with a commitment to cook and shop with a recipe that fits your family’s health goals and taste qualifications. Then, look at the labels. Avoid the labeling claims on the front, and focus on the nutrition label on the back.

Bottom line: The commitment to cook a meal for your family is the healthiest thing you can do. When it comes to feeding your family healthy foods, you’re in charge, so I encourage you to be prepared and informed when it comes to reading food labels. 

Jodie Shield Expert

"As a registered dietitian and mom, I’d like to help you become more than a headline reader in the grocery store."

Jodie's Perspectives & Posts

Lessons in Food Labeling

Lessons in Food Labeling

Start with a commitment to cook and shop with a recipe that fits your family’s health goals and taste qualifications. Then, look at the labels.

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Some Say GMOs Are Safe, Some Say GMOs Are Unsafe – Who Should I Believe?

Some Say GMOs Are Safe, Some Say GMOs Are Unsafe – Who Should I Believe?

As a registered dietitian mom who shares your concerns, I’d like to help you become more than a headline reader. Rather than rely on the Food Babe or the food industry, here is where I go to get the facts about GMOs – both pros and cons - from reliable sources.

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WHAT DO FOOD LABEL CLAIMS REALLY MEAN?

I was thinking last night about marketing and farming. Marketing is such a powerful vehicle because in the end it influences what I think to be truth and how I spend my money. Antibiotic free, hormone free, organic, natural… What do these claims really mean, though?

SO, WHAT DOES "ANTIBIOTIC FREE" MEAN?

The term "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.

All farmers are required to follow strict withdrawal periods for animals given antibiotics, so what does this really mean? The milk and meat that you are consuming is antibiotic free regardless of what it says on the label.

SO, WHAT DOES "HORMONE FREE" MEAN?

The term "no hormones administered" may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals. Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim "no hormones added" cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones."

SO, WHAT DOES "ORGANIC" MEAN?

While organic and non-organic foods are produced using different farming methods, nutritionally they aren't different.
Personally, I don't buy organic anything unless it's the least expensive option. And, mostly, it's not. I have chosen not to make food purchases in this manner because I see no difference in the food.

SO, WHAT DOES "NATURAL" MEAN?

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.

Then why does my package of split chicken breasts say "natural"? Why does my carton of soy milk say "natural"? Aren't they by nature, natural?

The best suggestion that I can give is to educate yourself. Knowledge is power. And, if you have a question about your food, ask a farmer. Educate yourself so that you can make a more informed decision, and not one based on fear or marketing gimmicks.

"Antibiotic free, organic, natural... What do these claims really mean?"

Stephanie's Perspectives & Posts

What Do Food Label Claims Really Mean?

What Do Food Label Claims Really Mean?

Antibiotic free, hormone free, organic, natural. ..and on and on and on. What do these claims really mean?

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Why I No Longer Believe That Monsanto Is The Devil

Why I No Longer Believe That Monsanto Is The Devil

I was the person who "liked" the social media pages and groups that created the memes and posted the articles that perpetuated my misguided notions about not only Monsanto, but farming and agriculture as well. Do you know what happened to me at Monsanto? I was put at ease.

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THE ORGANIC HEALTH HALO: IT’S REAL, PEOPLE.

Cornell researchers find that consumers believe organic food has fewer calories and are willing to pay nearly 25% more for it. Lesson: read the label.

Basically, a group of researchers from Cornell's Food and Brand Lab wanted to know if the "health halo" effect of organic food could lead to real bias. They offered up a pair of cookies, yogurt and potato chips to shoppers. All of the product pairs were produced organically, but they labeled one of each as "organic" and "regular." Then they offered them up to consumers to taste and rate.

"Even though these foods were all the same, the “organic” label greatly influenced people’s perceptions," they reported. In fact, consumers estimated the organic cookies and yogurt to have significantly fewer calories. And - AND - they were willing to pay up to 23.4% more for them.

If you read a label - and know what organic means - then you have a much better chance of avoiding the health halo. You can be an informed consumer. You can know that organic doesn't really mean more nutritious; you can make the decision to either buy organic or conventional food because you know the organic label is simply a description of how the food was raised, not the nutritional content.

In the end, it's up to us to read labels, pay attention and understand what terms like organic really mean (and don't mean).

"It's up to us to read labels, pay attention and understand what labels really mean (and don't mean)."

John and Holly's Perspectives & Posts

How do you build character?

How do you build character?

Amid combining corn and showing cows, our oldest thinks she may have had enough of this character building stuff. How about you?

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M&M's and Nanograms and Beef

M&M's and Nanograms and Beef

Mike took four jars, enlisting the help of his grandson, and filled each with an M&M to represent each nanogram in the following: a jar for a treated steer, an untreated steer, a baked potato and a birth control pill.

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Summertime: Work it out

Summertime: Work it out

My feelings are mixed on summertime — at this point, anyway.

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The Organic Health Halo: It's real, people.

The Organic Health Halo: It's real, people.

Cornell researchers find that consumers believe organic food has fewer calories and are willing to pay nearly 25% more for it. Lesson: read the label.

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