Fat-Free? Gluten-Free? 4 Deceptive Industry Labels

deceptive labels

In a $72 billion industry, it comes as no surprise that the weight-loss industry isn’t always truthful. Deceptive labels on our food packaging like fat-free, gluten-free, and dairy free are the most common offender. These catchphrases on food packaging often mislead us to believe that we’re receiving nutrition benefits that simply aren’t there. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back! In this article, we’ll explore the most common deceptive labels in the nutrition industry backed by science, of course!


deceptive labels
Image by congerdesign

The fat-free diet was all the rage in the late 90s, early 00s. I get it, eating fat gives you the illusion that we are putting on fat, but it doesn’t quite work that way. When we ingest food, we don’t choose whether it turns into a fat cell, muscle cell, brain cell, or if it comes out the other end as waste. Our body does that for us. Fat is an essential macronutrient and an essential part of our diet. They shouldn’t be avoided.

There’s nothing wrong with opting for less fat in our diets. The problem with the deceptive labels claiming to be fat-free is that they’re often high in sugar. Technically, you could put “fat-free” on a Jellybean packet and it wouldn’t be a lie. If you go to your local supermarket and hold up a fat-free strawberry yogurt compared to a full-cream strawberry yogurt – I guarantee you there will be more than 10g of sugar per 100g in the fat-free option.

Processed sugar has less nutritional benefits for us than fat. So I recommend if you really need some yogurt, sour cream, or a cereal bar, that you choose the full-fat option. Fats are high in calories, so they do need to be portion-controlled. One-quarter of an avocado is more than enough for most. Fats are also our brain-boosting foods. Without them, we’d fall asleep on the job! There’s a time and place for every macronutrient. If you’re serious about becoming the healthiest version of yourself, stay away from packaged goods and source your fats from nuts, seeds, and oils.

Sugar-Free                                                                                                                                                                                                            fat-free

deceptive labels like fat-free
Image by fancycrave1

Realizing our mistake in eating far too much sugar from our “fat-free” diet fad in the ’00s, we turned our backs on a new enemy. Sugar. The past decade has seen a rise in the “sugar-free,” and consequently, “low-carb” health trends. Many have become somewhat fanatic, even opting to remove bananas from their diets in the name of the evil monosaccharide, fructose, but what have we replaced our sugars with? Artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners are man-made and they’ve only been around since the 80s. This means that the FDA has approved them without research into the effects of these creations long-term (just as they did with corn-syrup and transfats). Research has already proven that artificial sweeteners may contribute to brain tumors. Other studies thus far have been conflicting in their results of the relationship between artificial sweeteners and cancer. As a relatively new phenomenon, I wouldn’t recommend risking it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      fat-free

If you have a sweet tooth but are committed to a healthy lifestyle, it’s better to supplement with these natural sugar sources:

  • Whole (not juiced) fruits in moderation
  • Stevia – a sweetener sourced from natural ingredients
  • Raw honey
  • Real maple syrup

When you see sugar-free advertised on food packaging, I recommend you read the ingredients list. If you see aspartame (sometimes listed as phenylalanine), saccharin, acesulfame, neotame or sucralose on the ingredients list, put the packet down.

High Protein

high protein and fat-free
Image by RitaE

Protein is king, they say! Gym culture has become a world obsessed with protein. For those of you who’ve been training for a while “hitting those macros” or “getting those gains in” are frequent passing phrases. The essential amino acids (molecules that create proteins) are, well, essential. However, it’s important that we don’t overeat the macronutrient.

Technically, salami and processed sandwich meats are high in protein. But they’re also a group one carcinogen, meaning they’ve been proven to cause cancer. That’s the same group as tobacco and asbestos. While high protein certainly isn’t bad, if you’re looking at a protein bar covered in chocolate and you have a weight loss goal, you’ll want to put that bar back on the shelf. High protein is also marketed towards those wanting to gain weight.                                                                                                       fat-free

We live in a predominantly meat-eating society. Unless you’re a bodybuilder or an athlete with massive calorie and protein numbers to hit, it’s likely that anything advertised “high protein” won’t be useful for you. It’s best to stick to lean, organic meat cuts, eggs, quinoa, and legumes as your trusted protein source.


gluten free bread
Image by kamila211

Gluten-free is among the most prominent recent health trends. Originally it was just celiacs who needed to abstain from gluten. But now it seems like almost everyone has an intolerance. The problem is when we over abuse gluten. It can disrupt our digestive tracts like any other food group that’s been processed.

Unfortunately, when someone who doesn’t like cooking decides to go gluten-free because their friend told them it was good, it doesn’t usually end well. Gluten-free foods are also highly processed. By now you’ll be getting the point, the less it’s touched by humans, the better. In fact, 2017 data found that 88% of gluten-free foods for children were actually unhealthy. Packed with sugars and other additives.                                                                                                                                                                                fat-free

If you do choose to go gluten-free for digestive problems or autoimmune diseases, I recommend making your own staples. Buy unprocessed grains and nuts, and make things from scratch. This hot tip goes for the gluten-eaters too. There are loads of great options and even a delicious cauliflower pizza base that you can create.

The Bottom Line

Remember that catchphrases on the front of a packet are designed to draw you in emotionally. High protein speaks to the new health-conscious gym goer. Fat-free or sugar-free provokes emotion in those who desperately want to shed those pounds. Whatever your goal is, educate yourself. The best thing that you’ll be able to do TODAY is to stop going for the easy to grab processed packet foods and towards whole foods that will propel you towards your goals.

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