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Thanks to the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, food manufacturers are required to provide a Nutrition Facts label on their products in order to provide consumers with an honest assessment of what the product contains. This is a step in the right direction that can help people make healthy choices…if they actually read the label.

What’s the barrier to reading the label? Well, there are several: it’s usually hidden on the back of the box in small print, and if we don’t understand terms like Percent Daily Value, we’re not likely to reap much information from the label. Often, however, there’s an even bigger barrier—what’s on the front of the box.

Take a stroll down the aisle of any grocery store and you’ll see the health claims prominently displayed on many products: fat free, zero trans fats, all natural, or light. But what do these arbitrary terms really mean? And who decides if a product qualifies?

The FDA regulates the health claims that food manufacturers can make; however, despite this regulation, many of the claims can still be quite misleading. Below, we translate health claims into reality.

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The following terms are not FDA-approved, so read the Nutrition Facts label closely to make your own educated assessment:

  • All Natural (Saturated fat is all natural.)
  • Lightly Sweetened
  • Doctor-Recommended
  • Kid-Approved
  • Parent-Tested
  • Strengthens Your Immune System
  • Made with Natural Goodness
  • Made with Whole Grains
  • Made with Real Fruit (Fruit juice concentrate counts as real fruit!)