Our lives are driven by consumption. Every day, we are faced with decisions on what to consume. We consume information on the news. We consume entertainment from television, movies and music. We consume knowledge from our peers. You get the point.
The thing we consume most is presentation. We make decisions based on presentation. We buy Nike because the Nike model looks incredibly fit and athletic in his Nike gear. We buy Crest toothpaste because the model on the box has one of the most beautiful, pearly white smiles you’ve ever seen. We make completely unnecessary purchases on items that are on sale, because the store presented us with a discount.
Presentation is the lifeblood of consumption.
When it comes to food, this can be a huge issue. Presentation, or marketing, of food paints a vivid picture of a product that will often fall short of your expectations. Everything from the look to the taste to the nutrition of the food can be presented to you in a way that is far more appealing than the truth.
I’ve made tons of poor eating decisions in my life based on presentations of food. I’ve also made just as many healthy choices. I’m sure I’ll make plenty more of each throughout the rest of my life. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at identifying the hidden marketing tricks used to advertise our food and that has helped my health tremendously.
I’d like to share some of those food marketing tricks, so you can continue to better yourself and make informed decisions on what foods you choose to consume.
Gluten-Free is extremely trendy right now. According to market research done by NPD Group, 29-percent of Americans are trying to cut down on the gluten they consume.
I’ve been gluten-free for 5 years now for medical purposes and have seen the industry grow right before my eyes. I fully support a gluten and grain free diet. I encourage all of my weight loss clients to at least give it a try.
What I DO NOT support is the consumption of gluten-free packaged foods. Just because the label says gluten-free on it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, most foods that have a gluten-free label are just as bad, if not worse, than the original item they mimic.
The whole point of a gluten-free diet is to cut the crappy grains and replace them with real food – not to replace them with even more sugary, starchy, chemically enhanced foods. If you’re going GF, try eating foods with just one ingredient. Meats, fruits, nuts and vegetables are all gluten-free, whether the label says or not!
The nutritional facts you see on labels, in commercials and on menus, are almost always going to be the amount per serving. It’s your job to determine how many servings you’re eating of that product.
Every product has a different serving size and different amount of servings per container. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s just so sneaky.
For example, let’s say you buy a nice big bottle of Gatorade and head to Planet Fitness for some vicious treadmill walking. The label says it has 80 calories and 21 grams of sugar – per serving. The serving size is 12 oz. Your bottle is 30 oz. You’re going to drink the entire bottle because you think Gatorade is good for you, because their awesome commercial with colorful sweat and general athletic baddassery told you so.
Well, you just drank 200 calories and 52.5 grams of sugar. Not what you were expecting was it?
This happens all the time with pretty much any food you can think of. I wrote an article on nutritional labeling flaws a while back. You should read that or at least check out this graphic below.
The point is that you absolutely must read the labels of your food products. By labels, I mean the nutritional facts. You need to see exactly what you’re putting into your body so there are no surprises when you do, or don’t, get the results you’re seeking.
Honestly, if you see the word natural, it may be a good idea to run. Natural food doesn’t need to tell you it’s natural.
What the hell is a natural flavor anyway? Who knows?
Food Scores has a database of over 80,000 foods and their ingredients and natural flavors is the 4th most used ingredient in our food. Salt, water and sugar are the top 3, respectively. All three items you can buy in your local grocery store – at least they have that going for them. You’re not going to find a bottle natural flavors in your local Kroger.
The term natural flavor can contain more than 100 ingredients. Literally, food labels can kill up to 100 birds with one stone by putting natural flavors on the list of ingredients.
Flavoring your food is your job, not the manufacturers. Just buy whole, real food and season it yourself.
This is kind of a general tip, but be cautious of buzz words like:
- Reduced Sugar
- Whole Grain
- Weight Control
- Naturally Sweetened
- Made with “Real ______”
- Heart Healthy
Not saying these are always a bad thing, but chances are slim that what you see is what you get when it comes to these claims. Just for fun, let’s see who can create the most buzzworded healthy sounding unhealthy food products. Here’s mine:
Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo Low-Cal Breakfast Cookies Baked with Real Cinnamon – And for every box you purchase, we help rescue a Bald Eagle and put it in a Cage-Free Environment to live a long and healthy life!
Your turn below. My favorite answer gets a free personal training session.
Generally, food items that have commercial advertising campaigns are not going to benefit your health. There are SOME that are good for you, but for the most part, it’s a no-go.
Think about the purpose of an advertisement. That 30-second television clip’s job is to convince you that you need that product. It’s really tough to think of a healthy food item that has a national ad campaign going right now…
You have McDonald’s now offering all-day breakfast. Healthy? Nope.
— McDonald's (@McDonalds) October 6, 2015
You’ve got Taco Bell offering breakfast, period. Healthy? No. We hear about Cheerios being gluten-free now. Are those benefiting your health? Not really. Crappy food is much more appealing than healthy food, but which produces the most appealing physique?
I’m pretty sure there’s no ads running for broccoli, are there? What about fresh blueberries? Any ads for those?
This is because those are actually FOOD items. They aren’t brands. They don’t have franchises or publicly traded stocks. It’s just food and it’s sad that we don’t get to learn about food as much as we get to learn about Burger King’s “Black Whopper.”
Hopefully these 5 food marketing tricks help you identify some unhealthy foods in your diet so you can eliminate them! As always, reach out to me with any questions and I’ll do my best to help you out in any way that I can!