Sadly, we live in a world where we can no longer depend on food marketing labels provided to us to get the proper nutrition we need. While it may seem like a peaceful choice to listen to the advice of the food guide pyramid (or Choose My Plate as it’s now called), FDA approved food labeling stamps that tell us a food is healthy, or even general advice given by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, that’s no longer the case. Small organizations everywhere are largely influenced by their donors. Many of these donors come from the dairy, meat, egg, or another animal-based food production system looking to gain profits and dollars, but animal-based foods aren’t the only culprit. Even harmless foods like cocoa, fruit juices, yogurt, and most any processed food you see at the store has some sort of label on it telling you it’s healthy, natural, good for your heart, etc.

How Food Politics Play Into Profitable Dollars

Marion Nestle is an incredible leader for the real foods movement and is a Paulette Gollard Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, along with the Professor of Sociology at New York University. Nestle has worked for years to show America how food politics play a role in health claims and our overall society, along with show us how to eat real food for proper health and nutrition.

Nestle recently wrote a blog post depicting food companies such Mars, Nestle and other companies that produce fruit juice, cocoa, yogurts and other products that come with health claims found through research studies that were largely funded by those food companies. She explains that it’s been shown that products that slap health marketing labels onto products such as yogurts that are touted as being good sources of probiotics, cocoa that improves your heart, cereals for children that promote healthy bones and offer a good source of fiber, and even fruit juices that advertise themselves to be a good serving of fruit are all nothing more than marketing schemes funded by the companies that produce them. Anytime a research study comes out touting the benefits of a food, you can bet that the companies who produced that food had a role in the funding of the study.

Nestle brings to life an important issue we should consider before spending our money on products with certain health claims. Food companies want us to trust them, so they organize research studies that will back their products and make us believe they’re good for us. I’m sure many of you can remember a time you heard a study about a product being healthy and the next time you were at the store, you willingly picked it up. Or, the product came with some sort of stamp or fancy label telling you it was a good choice for your health and worthy of your money. All of us have fell for this at some point or another and it’s time for the madness to stop around food marketing.

What We Can Do to Take a Stand Against Misleading Food Companies

The best thing you can do to benefit your health is to buy foods that don’t come in a package at all. This means choosing whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, whole grains (versus whole grain products like cereal) and doing the best you can to eat real food. While some choices like non-dairy milk or a can of beans may be the least harmful, it’s foods with a long list of ingredients or fancy seals we need to watch out for. And we should still even keep an eye out for products that we think are safe that receive high levels of marketing. It’s time we eat just eat more real food, period.

Real food doesn’t need research studies that are paid by food companies to prove they’re good for us. It’s a common sense approach we can feel and taste with every bite. 

Lead Image Source: Illene Tatro/Flickr