Buyer Beware: Read Those Food Labels

In this week’s segment of Buyer Beware, we take a closer look at food labels.

Marketers do an excellent job promoting a product as healthy, but remember they’re obligated to list all of the ingredients enclosed within – often on a small nutritional facts label on the back though – so it’s up to you as a consumer to ignore the flashy designs and outlandish health claims on the front and dig a little deeper.

Case in point: This frozen salmon found at a local grocery store in Winnipeg sure looks healthy (and comes with a hefty price tag), but “Product of China” is not something you want to see on something purported to be fresh caught from the ocean. This is harvested in Alaska (could be farmed), sent to China to be packaged presumably and then marketed by a Canadian company in Vaughan, ON.

On a side note, make sure you know the difference between wild-caught salmon and the farmed variety. They come with vastly different health benefits (Hint: one requires food colouring to turn it pink…). The label should clearly identify the fish as wild caught and the legit stuff has more of a reddish hue to it, whereas farmed is generally bright pink. Complicating matters is the fact “Atlantic Salmon” is considered as species of fish, so it can be labeled as such even if the fish itself is farmed. I’ve noticed some grocery stores being a little more honest in this regard, maybe due to external pressures, but the packaged frozen stuff has the added marketing that is meant to confuse as much as inform.

When all else fails, read the nutrition facts! This “Olive Oil” mayonnaise sure looks healthy from the front, but when you look a little further you’ll find a percentage of the oil contained within is made from soy, not olives. Soybean oil is commonly used in processed foods to prolong shelf life, is often genetically engineered and contains an unbalanced ratio of omega-6 (which increases inflammation) to omega-3 fatty acids.

Be an informed consumer for your health and that of your family!


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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.