March 1, 2012

When Fat-Free Means Fat-Loaded.

Are false advertising and misinformation getting sprayed on your meals?

There appears to be an increasing volume of news coverage, blogs and articles lately, supporting healthy living. As readers consume this information and strive to prepare healthier meals—despite their good intentions—they may be adding more calories and fat to their diet than they realize.

It’s no wonder when the FDA allows for nutritional claims that are easily misunderstood, misleading, or deceptive. As a result, understanding nutritional claims in product marketing can be difficult.

Those who aren’t losing weight or feeling better despite their efforts to eat healthier meals, may be deceived by product labeling on products that only look healthy.

Let’s look at Pam cooking spray as an example.

The claim on the front label states that Pam is “for fat free cooking.” When you turn the can around and look at the nutritional facts, you will read 0 calories, 0 total fat, 0 saturated fat, and 0 carbohydrates. This would make sense based upon the claims on the front label.

However, when you read further down the nutritional facts label, canola oil and grain alcohol are the first two ingredients listed. Oils are fat! Oil contains nine calories of fat per gram and alcohol contains seven calories of fat per gram. How could the makers of Pam market a product that has “zero calories and fat”?

It all comes down to understanding the FDA’s guidelines regarding serving sizes on products. The serving size for Pam, also listed at the top of the nutritional facts, is that of one-third of a second (recommended spraying time).

When was the last time you’ve used a product like Pam (if ever) and tried to coat a baking sheet or pan within one-third of a second? Can you actually spray any serving within one-third of a second?

It’s usually several seconds worth of spray that goes into any given cooking pan or baking sheet, adding tens or hundreds of calories and grams of fat to that once healthy dish.

Pam isn’t the only product with deceptive marketing. This is why it’s important to know the facts and learn how to read labels. Here are the FDA guidelines for product marketing. Use this list to compare against foods you’ve bought with various health claims.

Fat Free: Less than half a gram of fat per serving.

Low Calorie: No more than 40 calories per serving.

Sugar Free: Less than half a gram of sugar per serving.

Low Sodium: No more than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

High, rich in, excellent source of: 20 percent or more of the recommended daily value of the nutrient.

Less, fewer, reduced: 25 percent or less of the named nutrient.


Terms that aren’t standardized by the FDA

Organic: Must meet the USDA standards for organic production, without most synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically engineered ingredients.

Natural: Only regulated by the FDA for meat and poultry products. This label means “no artificial substances.”

Local: Not a monitored claim.

Free Range: A USDA definition for eggs and poultry where chickens have “access to the outside.” No other specific spatial restrictions are given. “Free range” beef and pork labels are not regulated by the USDA, or FDA, for product marketing.

Made With Whole Grains: A general term with a broad meaning. The product may be 99 percent refined grains, while 1 percent is actually whole grains.

Lightly Sweetened: Another expression that is not controlled. How much or how little is “lightly”?

Fiber: A product “high in fiber” may contain isolated, added fibers such as inulin, maltodextrin, and polydextrose. These types of fiber haven’t been proven to offer the health benefits from fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.


I suggest you print out this page and take it with you the next time you go shopping. Plan to build in an extra 30 minutes for your next trip to the market. Spend a few minutes reading the marketing misinformation, the nutritional label and ingredients listed on the products before you buy them.

How will being aware of this information change or influence your shopping decisions?



FDA guidelines found at www.fda.gov

Pam product info found at www.scientificpsychic.com



Editor: Andrea B.


Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Jared Vaughn  |  Contribution: 300