Reading between (and beyond) the lines
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Julia Hayden, Registered Dietitian, Foodmaestro
We're all looking for the "magic bullet" of food to make us healthier. However, most of us eventually realize that this doesn't exist. The next best thing that we can rely on is using the information presented to us on food and beverage packages to help us determine "Is this healthy?". Health claims that appear on front of pack can assist shoppers who are looking for healthier products or for those with specific dietary needs such as bone maintenance or weight management.
When navigating the grocery aisles, it is important to remember that just because a product does have a health claim, doesn't mean that the product is healthy.
Health claims that appear on a product can give it a health halo (when marketing or imagery gives the illusion that a product is healthy), which is something all shoppers should be aware of when looking for better-for-you foods. The purpose of a health claim is to help shoppers understand:
The food or beverage is a significant source of a specific nutrient; and
The nutrient has a beneficial health impact.
It is important to remember that we eat food, not nutrients, and that a product that boasts high calcium or fibre could still be high in fat, salt, and sugar.
When trying to find better-for-you products with health claims, be sure to also compare the nutritional information. This can be done using the front of pack Traffic Light labelling:
To find out more on how to use nutrition traffic light labelling to help you eat well, check out the British Nutrition Foundation's resource here.