Have you ever heard the term “health halo”? It’s when you perceive a food as healthy because of the way it is packaged and marketed or because of another association such as being linked with healthy foods or endorsed by a trusted celebrity. For example, we’ve all heard about Jared losing weight by eating at Subway, right? So when many of us think about Subway now, we think of them as having healthy food. While they do have healthy options, they also have things like the 6″ Philly Cheesesteak which has a whopping 1310mg of Sodium! You had better not add soup to that meal or you’ll easily meet or exceed the recommended Upper Limit for Sodium which is 2400mg (read more in this previous blogpost).
What do you think of when you hear the words organic, natural, made with whole grains, fat-free, fair-trade, pure, made with real fruit…. I could go on and on! These are all words that clever marketing firms use in order to make us feel that a food is healthy so that we will want to buy it. Some of these words are regulated (like the term USDA Organic) and some (like Natural) are not. When a regulated term is used, you still need to be careful! An Organic Soda (like this one) is still full of added sugars and has absolutely no health benefits.
What is the best way to avoid falling into the “health halo” trap? Make sure that the majority of the food you eat is unprocessed. By unprocessed I’m talking about whole fruits and vegetables as well as lean protein sources. Ironically, these are also the kinds of foods that typically don’t have a nutrition label in the grocery store and don’t get a lot of marketing hype! Eat more foods like these and your body will thank you!
For a little more information on labels, you can read what the Center for Science in the Public Interest has to say.