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Buyer Beware: Health Halos

Have you noticed that almost every grocery store now has a designated “health food” aisle? These shelves are littered with products that seem to be a solid 50 to 75% more expensive than their “peasant” alternatives, which are sprinkled throughout the remainder of the store.

But they are "healthier", so it makes sense that we have to pay more for the good quality stuff…right?

Well, let’s talk about it.

Most, if not all, of those products utilize wellness-culture buzz words to draw you in. These words create health halos around products and lure consumers into spending more money under the false premise of being “healthier”.

Health halos are misconceptions that a food is “good for you” based on a specific claim, even though there is limited to no evidence to support that claim.

Here are some examples of common health halos in the food industry:

  • Organic

  • All-natural

  • Keto

  • Non-GMO

  • Gluten-free

  • Artisanal

  • Sugar-free

  • Low-sugar

  • Fat-free

  • Low-fat

  • Vegan

  • Plant-based

  • No artificial flavours

These buzz words overestimate a food’s healthfulness. I mean, don’t get me wrong; if you are intolerant to gluten, then of course, knowing that a food doesn’t have gluten is super important. But for most people (that don’t have legitimate intolerances, allergies, or sensitivities), none of these qualities in isolation guarantee that a food offers nutritional benefits or promotes good health above and beyond the regular alternative.

Think about it: A food label that indicates that the product is free of added sugar tells you NOTHING about what actually IS in it. Doesn’t that matter more?

To evaluate a food’s nutritional value in a meaningful way, the back of the package holds the answer. The Nutrition Facts table and the Ingredients List are there for JUST THAT PURPOSE. I’ve written an entire blog post on how to read these labels, so check it out here!

Next time you're at the grocery store, try to put less weight on those health halo buzz words. Instead, try comparative shopping where you compare the Nutrition Facts tables and the Ingredients Lists of similar products. Opt for the option that has more fibre, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron, or the option that has less saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

Stay nourished my friends,


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