Nowadays, it seems like every food label is designed to make you think its contents are healthy (or at least not all that bad). And while a new Harris Interactive survey shows that the majority of Americans say they find those labels helpful in making healthy food choices, some of them mean diddly squat.
While the Food and Drug Administration is in charge of defining food labels, manufacturers are constantly coming up with new ones that aren’t regulated, don’t have any real definition, and are all about catching your eye. Meanwhile, the ones that the FDA has defined are rarely ever explained on food packaging—so the chances you know what they mean are slim says Nicolette Pace, founder of NutriSource in Great Neck, New York
So we tapped Pace—and the FDA’s food-labeling guide—to find out what the most common (and confusing) labels really mean:
1. “Made with…”
You think: It’s a good source of… whatever the ingredient the label is touting.
It means: It contains at least a bit of said ingredient. But since this label isn’t defined by the FDA, how much is anybody’s guess.
Shop smart: Get an idea how much of the ingredient the food contains by seeing where is sits on the ingredient list, says Lisa R. Young, adjunct professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. The closer it is to the beginning of the list, the more of it the food contains.