The Top 5 Grocery Store Tricks to Avoid

By Lindsey Smith

Since America has turned onto a health kick recently, retailers and grocery stores alike are trying to keep up by adding new “healthy” items geared towards consumers’ wants and needs. However, when grocery shopping, it is very easy to get confused on what is actually healthy. After all, most foods on the shelf are all in the mind of the marketer. Advertisers know the tricks to make you think you are buying the healthier option, when in reality, you may not be.

Here are the 5 most common health claims to watch out for:

1.)    Lightly Sweetened: This simply means sugar is either being replaced by a substitute or the serving size is smaller. For example, sugar will be replaced with High Fructose Corn Syrup, or the serving size will drop to one cup rather than one and a half cups. This can trick a consumer into thinking the item contains less sugar when it fact, it does not.

2.)    “Good source of:” This statement simply implies the food contains a serving of a certain grain. However, they fail to mention you would have to eat an entire box of cereal to get the recommended serving of the “whole grain.”

3.)    Reduced Fat/Sodium: In products such as microwavable meals, you will often find “reduced fat” or “reduced sodium” on the label. However, these products fail to tell you the fat is actually switched out for sodium and sugar. Or the sodium is switched out for fat and sugar. Depending on your dietary needs, this could be very important.

4.)    Natural: This is a HUGE misconception in today’s grocery store. As more and more people are choosing organic, advertisers are putting the word “natural” into the mix. “Natural” has no standard in federal guidelines. In fact, many processed and refined foods can be considered natural because one ingredient came from the Earth. Always look for the USDA organic labels to ensure quality.

5.)    Whole Wheat: Many companies put “whole wheat” on their labels. This is most often seen on products such as breads, crackers and chips. However, if you look at the ingredient list, the first ingredient is typically called “enriched wheat flour.” This is just a fancy term for white flour. So even though you think you are eating “whole wheat,” you are actually eating white flour. Look for products that say, “100% whole grain” to ensure quality.

Lindsey Smith, known as the “food mood girl” works with people who have a habit of looking to food for all the wrong nutrients: comfort, reward, fun and acceptance. Through speaking and coaching she motivates, equips and inspires people to sort out their relationships with food so they can live a healthy, balanced life. She is also the author of “Junk Foods & Junk Moods: Stop Craving and Start Living!” Connect with Smith via her Web site,, on Facebook and Twitter @LindseySmithHHC.