By Beth Wallace
As a parent, you have a million things on your weekly to do list, and somewhere on that list is grocery shopping. While cruising through the aisles, you are mentally organizing your meals, finding the best deals, and buying the best products for your family. You put the "9 grain" bread in the cart next to the "all natural" yogurt because the claims on the packaging ensure it's healthy. Right?
Wrong. I'm afraid to tell you you've been fooled. Yes - you, me, pediatricians, and anyone who has been to the grocery store in the last five years and purchased the "multigrain" cereal, 9-grain bread or "all natural" yogurt without reading the ingredients label first. Many of the claims that we see on the packaging of foods for children and instinctively trust are nothing more than clever marketing terms.
A 2011 study called Claiming Health examined 58 children's food products marketed as healthy choices on the front of the package. The nutritional content was compared with Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Of the products compared, 84 percent failed to meet the DRIs for total fat, saturated fat, sugar, sodium or fiber.
What concerns me most is that parents can easily be misguided because the terms on the front of the package may not be regulated language. But there are no national standards behind claims like "all natural" "no artificial...", "stoneground" and many more. The Food and Drug Administration does have regulations for phrases such as "High in," and "Good source of." But that still doesn't mean the product is considered "healthy."
With a claim on every box and bottle, how do you know what statements to trust?