Not so sweet on food labelsBeverly Godfrey column: Shopping should not be so hard. You have to read labels on everything, and I’m not talking about the front of the box, but the fine print in the back.
By: Beverly Godfrey, Duluth News Tribune
Unpacking the groceries onto the kitchen counter, I see it.
“Ugh! This has artificial sweetener in it,” I wail.
The big, green oval on the label says, “No sugar added.” Why didn’t I see that? It’s right there on the front of this plastic box of Nesquik, being held by a brown cartoon rabbit. Worded in that positive way, it’s easy to gloss over. “No sugar added” on a product that basically should be a box of sugar. Great.
All I want is for my 9-year-old to be able to add a bunch of sugar and chocolate to her milk in the morning as part of her red-blooded American breakfast. I don’t need chemical diet food for my children.
Shopping should not be so hard. You have to read labels on everything, and I’m not talking about the front of the box, but the fine print in the back.
“Light.” “Fat-free.” “Mulitgrain.” “Contains real fruit”; it all means nothing.
My husband came home from the store with a bottle of fruit juice.
“Did you mean to buy this corn syrup drink?” I asked.
“What?” he replied. “It says ‘all natural.’ ”
“They can say that about corn syrup because it comes from corn,” I said.
Or sometimes you’ll see something like, “supports health.” If a food had nothing more to offer than one calorie, the claim would be accurate because it’s taking a small step toward not letting you starve to death.
How about cotton candy packaged as “fat-free.” Fat-free sugar — wow.
I’m not trying to say I’m a food purist. You’ve probably been behind me in a fast-food drive-thru because I seem to be there a lot.
But I want to easily understand what I’m buying. Sometimes I actually do want the corn-syrup drink cocktails because they have fewer grams of sugar than real fruit juice. Sometimes I want the juice.
Why? I don’t know, really; I’m spit-balling here. All I have to go on are contradictory news reports, marketing propaganda and ever-changing health recommendations from so-called experts. I figure it’s best to mix it up and make our diet as varied as possible.
If my kids had diabetes or excess weight, artificial sweeteners might be better for them. But that’s not the case, so I’d like them to get all the calories they deserve from their food. Real sugar, real fat.
Remember Olestra? It’s fake fat that had no calories, but also stopped your body from absorbing vitamins, and — by the way — caused diarrhea.
My favorite packaging health claim, and I’ll buy stuff that says this just so I can be amused at home, too, is “made with all-natural goodness” or “whole-grain goodness” or “organic goodness.”
As a language nerd, seeing “goodness” as an ingredient gets me worked up.
I’ll show the kids: “See? That’s impossible! ‘Goodness’ is a noun, but it’s intangible! It’s not a thing you can hold; it’s not something you can add to a recipe!”
This gets replies like, “Yeah, Mom, I get it” or “Yep, that’s funny.”
“Mom, I know what ‘intangible’ means. You can stop.”
OK, then. Rant over, I guess.
Beverly Godfrey is a copy editor for the News Tribune. You can reach her at email@example.com.