Food marketers have done just what they set out to do: make people THINK their food products are healthier choices. Ah, but are they?

Obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig tweeted the link to an interesting article on the subject that you might have missed because it showed up on the 4th of July:

A recent study by the University of Houston found that when food products have words such as “antioxidant,” “gluten-free” or “heart-healthy” on the front of their packages, people preferred them because they thought they were healthier. People developed what the researchers call a “false sense of health” because in actuality most of these foods were not really any healthier than the competition’s products.

Boy, does this make me mad. People are looking at the food labels, just as their doctors and dietitians have recommended. They are trying to eat foods that are good for them. And what’s happening? They are being tricked into purchasing foods that aren’t doing a darn thing to help them meet their goals.

One of the study’s researchers went as far as saying this fake healthfulness probably is contributing to the obesity epidemic in our country.  

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: you have to be a detective looking at food labels. Ingredients you’d never expect are present. Sugars are added where you’d least expect them.

It’s not too dramatic to say that if you see what sounds like healthy terms screaming on the front of a package, the product probably isn’t. (After reading “The Big Fat Surprise,” if I saw anything the American Heart Association was recommending, I’d run the other way.)

I recently wrote about the salad dressing that was screaming LIGHT on the front, but in a closer examination of the ingredients, I discovered the FIRST ingredient listed was sugar! And, as we all have learned, the first ingredient is the one that is most prevalent in the product. So this dressing basically was sugar with a little vinegar on the side. But an innocent shopper would see that label saying LIGHT and figure, oh, this is a good choice.

In a perfect word, our government wouldn’t allow such phony labeling on food products. But this ain’t that place. It’s crummy that we have to look at food packaging and figure they are trying to trick us and make money, but that’s the way it is. Don’t fall for the hype.