Translating Food Labels – Part 1

I took a walk through the supermarket the other day with my inspector gadget cap on. With a waive of new clients coming through, I decided that the best way to help them make change is to understand what they were up against first hand. After strolling throughout the store, I was pleased to say that it wasn’t the soft drink aisle or confectionary section that bothered me so much (they can claim what they like, but we all know that stuff isn’t going to promote good health). What really got under my skin was the clever marketing slogans, sales pitches and far fetched health claims that were plastered over once healthy and nourishing foods like nuts, dried fruit, yoghurts etc. Given my frustration, I decided the best thing to do was to channel my frustration into a blog post. Given there is so much to get through, I have split this post into two. To kick things off, let’s start with all things “Gluten Free”.


“Gluten-Free” is the new buzz word and many companies are marketing their products as ‘gluten-free’ and hence, in the eye of some consumers, a healthier, “guilt free” alternative. Like the “fat free” movement that stripped the goodness from so many healthy foods like that of avocados, nuts, seeds and eggs and replaced it with fat-free yoghurt that contained three times the sugar, gluten free processed food is not a healthier alternative. Whether it is a store bought “gluten-free” triple chocolate brownie with macadamia and chocolate fudge icing, or a “gluten free” processed rice cracker covered in artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, neither of these are a healthier alternative just because they contain no gluten. These products often contain soy flours, soybean oil, canola oil, hydrogenated vegetable proteins which are extremely damaging to your health. Keep it simple, JUST EAT REAL FOOD, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grass-fed meats, pasture-fed eggs, wild-caught fish… are all 100% gluten free, naturally.


Natural foods are flying off shelves; it’s little wonder the label is everywhere. The FDA hasn’t defined natural and doesn’t regulate its use, so companies can—and do—use it willy-nilly to up sales. Don’t let an “I’m natural” pickup line charm you into opening your wallet. All foods that we should be buying that are in fact 100% natural (like fruits and copious amounts of vegetables) should not come with a label, so this marketing genius, is simply just that, marketing genius to get you to part with your dollars.


“Low fat” labels require that the fat of the original product must be reduced 25%, but that doesn’t stop the manufacturer from adding taste with more sugar. Low fat yoghurts are the biggest culprits and have been known to contain 3 times the sugar of 100% organic full-fat alternatives. Sugar makes us fat (Why I don’t use Agave), always opt for the full-fat organic varieties with NO added sugar or sweeteners.

To illustrate my point, a small snack size tub of yoghurt labelled “99% fat free with 40% of your RDI of calcium and enriched with vitamin D for strong bones” contains a whopping 22.8grams of sugar (equivalent to just shy of 6 tsp). Skip it, it won’t keep you satisfied and will only make you reach for another sugar fix an hour later.



macroThis was recently bought to my attention by Cyndi O’meara, one of Australia’s leading nutritionists. After searching high and low for some fresh dates in her local area without any luck, she found herself in Woolworths, opting for the dried variety. With only one packet of the ‘Macro Wholefoods’ variety left on the shelf, she scooted around to the dried fruit aisle and grabbed a packet of the home-brand variety to meet her desired quantity required. Before walking out the store, she flipped over the back and noticed the ingredients list were completely identical: Dates, Vegetable Oil (Palm Oil). Although Woolworth’s claim these are not the same product, this would suggest otherwise.

‘Macro Wholefoods Market’ is a subsidiary of Woolworth’s that claims to offer customers healthier, wholefood alternatives. As you can see with the dates, this is not always the case, palm oil included. Be wary of your choices and make sure you are making the right choice, especially if they are making you pay for it.


While I am not a huge advocate of grains, I needed to cover this one for all those grain lovers out there. A label of “whole wheat” doesn’t mean that only whole grains are in the product. It means that some whole grains are in it. You could have 90% white flour, and 10% whole wheat flour, and call it “whole wheat”. Cereal companies and bread manufacturers are guilty of this one. If you are set on buying grains, opt for “100% organic non GMO whole grain.”

And that’s not all! Next week I divulge part 2 so stay tuned!



  1. How to read a Food Label | An Apple a day - […] might also like my posts on ‘Translating Food Labels Part 1′ and ‘Translating Food Labels Part 2′. Here I…
  2. That Sugar Film - Wrap Up - An Apple a day - […] packaged, processed foods and opt for the real stuff… heck, I have even written posts on how to spot…
  3. How to read a Food Label - An Apple a Day - […] might also like my posts on ‘Translating Food Labels Part 1’ and ‘Translating Food Labels Part 2’. Here I…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Schedule your nutrition consultation here

Meet Alyse

I’m a qualified Nutritionist who believes an evidence-based approach to modern nutrition is severely under-rated. Patients are so often left in the dark when it comes to health-care and as a firm believer in the old saying “knowledge is power”, my ultimate goal is to provide my readers, students and patients with clear and actionable advice that ultimately helps you reach your full potential.