How to Read Beyond Food Marketing + (Free Guide!)

Did you know that food manufacturers can legally get away with putting misleading claims on their products? It’s easy to assume that because products (especially food-products) are on the shelves, they must be safe. The average consumer isn’t taught to look past food marketing to know the truth about what they’re purchasing.

In fact, even brand names themselves are created so that we believe the products are healthy (think Nature Valley, Vitamin Water, Fiber One, etc).

The result? Consumers fall for misleading marketing tactics and end up purchasing foods for themselves and their families that aren’t what they’re claiming to be.

Keep in mind that choosing whole, fresh, foods that do not come in boxes or packages will promote optimal health.

In this article, we’ll cover a few examples of misleading food marketing (those claims and buzzwords you see on the front of packages)

For a more comprehensive list, I’ve created a FREE resource for you: Your Guide to Understanding Food Marketing, which includes:

  • The most common buzzwords you’ll find on food packaging
    (terms like “natural”, “organic”, “non-GMO”, “100% pure”, “antibiotic-free” and more!)
  • Whether or not these terms can be trusted (these may surprise you!)
  • What to look for to make sure you’re buying the highest quality possible

You can download it right here:

Examples of misleading food marketing tactics to watch out for


There is currently no legal definition for the term “natural”. This means that companies could argue that an additive such as High Fructose Corn Syrup, for example, is “natural” because it is derived from corn. However, the processing it requires makes this ingredient far from natural.

Natural Flavors

Because there is no legal definition for “natural”, natural flavors are another grey area. Unless you can find information on a company’s website explaining that their “natural flavors” are truly natural, it’s best to avoid natural flavors whenever possible. Again, companies can argue that any additive or ingredient (even if it’s potentially dangerous) is natural. Plus, since they are not required to disclose what their “natural flavors” contain, you don’t really have any way of knowing what that contains.

Take Vitamin Water for example, which is owned by Coca-Cola. Their products claim to be naturally flavored, yet if you scroll down the page on their website, it also says “this product includes ingredients sourced from genetically engineered (GE) crops, commonly known as GMOs”.

Zero Trans Fats

This is an example of how an ingredient list itself can be misleading. Did you know that companies can legally get away with saying “Zero Trans Fats” on an ingredient list, as long as it contains less than 0.5 g per serving?!

This means if you had more than 1 serving, you’d be getting more trans fats than you need (and trans fats are something we should all be avoiding at all costs!)

If you see “Zero Trans Fats” on a package, immediately look at the ingredient list. Then, if you see any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, know that it contains trans fats!

As you can see, there are a lot of loopholes for companies to say whatever they’d like on the front of their packages, and in some cases (like Trans Fats) they can even get away with misleading tactics on the nutrition label.

Be sure to always check ingredient lists for a clearer picture of what you’re buying. In fact, I recommend ignoring claims and marketing phrases on the front. Don’t blindly trust them without looking closely at the ingredient list. Better yet, opt for whole, fresh foods (rather than packaged foods) to promote optimal health 🙂

Don’t forget to download your free guide to Understanding Food Marketing by clicking below.

[Understanding Food Marketing]

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What misleading food marketing tactics have you seen? Share below.

Hannah Smith

Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.

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