Does it do what it says on the tin?

“Low in fat”, “high in fibre”, “helps to lower cholesterol”. All of these are examples of nutrition or health claims that can be found on a multitude of products in any supermarket or corner store in the country. But what affect do these claims have on our shopping and eating habits?

Who wouldn’t be more likely to buy a product if it claimed to help improve our dental health or if it was low in sugar or was a good source of protein? To be honest, before I began my degree in nutrition and my placement here in safefood, I would have fallen for the myth that a food with a claim was basically the healthier option. It was only when I began to learn more about nutrition and the food and beverage industry and that I came to realise that these options aren’t necessarily the healthier option. Just because a claim says it is "low in fat", this doesn't mean it is low in calories, sugar or salt. 

For example, If I wanted to lose a little bit of weight, the instinct would be to reach for that low-fat yoghurt instead of the regular. But what someone may not realise is that the low-fat alternative may have increased amounts of sugar to replace the lower fat. Or you may want to reach for that chocolate bar that is a “good source of protein” rather than your regular Twix. But just because it may be a better protein source, that doesn’t mean it has any less salt, sugar, saturated fat or calories.

woman comparing jars in a supermarketHere at safefood we recently carried out some research on nutrition and health claims and what consumers thought of these products. In our research, we found that many people did not understand what these claims really meant. For example, did you know that a product that claims to be “low fat” means it has 3 grams of fat or les per 100g? Or that a “high fibre” product must have at least 6g of fibre per 100g or at least 3g of fibre per 100 calories? 

It is important for us, as consumers, to know that these claims can only be placed on products that meet certain criteria and that they are regulated at a European level. However, just because a product has a claim on it, does not mean that is the healthier choice. Being able to read and understand the nutritional information on the label is key to making the best choice for you.

We should aim to follow a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates and with less processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and saturated fat. This along with appropriate portion sizes and regular exercise is the best way to create a healthier life.

Posted: 11/12/2019 11:46:31 by Niall Grieve
Filed under: Cholesterol, Fat, Government, Health Claims, Nutrition Claims, Protein, Salt, Sugar

About Me

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Niall Grieve
Hi, I am the current placement student from Ulster University for the Human Health and Nutrition Team. My role consists of writing News pieces for the safefood website and supporting other members of my team with various projects. I am originally from County Derry but currently live in Cork. In my spare time you will normally find me at the gym or with a good book.