Tricks That Make Foods Sound Healthier Than They Are

What Parents Should Know About the Foods We Think Are Healthy

By Chantelle Kadala

It’s an everyday struggle for many parents to make sure your kids are eating right. Trade the chocolate pudding cup for a energy bar. Hide your cinnamon bagels and hand out some multigrain toast for breakfast. If you believe all the healthy hype then you think you are doing a good job.

But what happens when you find out that your vision of what is healthy is actually an illusion shaped by creative marketing. Inspired by the health food crazed, companies are labeling and marketing their products with words that make you believe they are better than they are.

Don’t be fooled by these packaged food tricks.

Sports Drinks

Thirty minutes of four-year-old soccer practice and your poor baby is tired. Time to replenish those electrolytes like the pros in the commercial, right? Wrong. Unless your baby is 17 years old and doing two-a-day football practices in the summer sun they don’t need what the pros need and their electrolytes are fine. The 100-plus calories your child just drank might be more than they burned in practice. Water is still the best thing for any situation.


Multi-grain simply means what it says – more than one kind of grain – but as intended it gives you a belief that you are getting a flowing fields worth of whole grain. Maybe there is whole grain in there somewhere but more than likely the multitude of grains in your multi-grain breads and pasta are refined and have lost a lot of the minerals and nutrients that would make it healthier than single grain products. If you want whole grain (and you do) check the label carefully for 100% whole grain.


Who loves a big bowl of lettuce and vinaigrette? Rabbits. That’s why we add meat and cheese and throw in bacon bits and croutons before covering the whole thing in a thick creamy dressing. You think you are eating a healthy low calorie meal but it may really be more like a buffet worthy amount of calories. Check the restaurant menus for your favorite salads and you will see some of them could be as much as 1300 calories. Be aware of the calories of the extra ingredients you are adding to your child’s salad. Cutting food up and putting it on top of lettuce doesn’t make it calorie free.

Granola and Energy Bars

How do make a bar comprised of healthy sounding and healthy tasting ingredients delicious? Add sugar. Some of the “energy” in these bars come largely from the sugar added. Don’t assume you are making the healthiest choice. Read labels and make sure you are not handing your child three teaspoons of sugar.

Ingredient Labels

One of the sneakier tricks applies to rearranging the ingredient labels as a work-around of a law that requires ingredients to be listed in descending order of the amount in the product. That means that if there is more high fructose corn syrup than anything other ingredient in a packaged food product then high fructose corn syrup has to be listed first. No food company wants to label any form of sugar first unless it’s a bag of sugar so some will use a variety of different types of sweeteners, disbursing the sugar into several slots further down the ingredient listing. Add them all up and its still more sugar than any other ingredient.

Vegetable Versions

This isn’t pertaining to vegetarian food. Here we are talking about products like the veggie straws in the potato chip aisle and vegetable flour tortillas. The label implies a nutrient filled food that replaced all those “bad” ingredients with vegetables. In reality it simply means there are vegetables in there somewhere and if you search the ingredient label you might find them near the end. Even at only 3% vegetables, you can still call them veggie straws or veggie chips. Additionally the vegetable-colored appearance of the foods means added dyes and food colorings because adding a teaspoon of broccoli won’t make a tortilla green.

Do you know of other ways we are getting tricked at the grocery store? Let us know in the comments.