Simple Palate: Lost in Translation

Many companies use labels that obscure what's actually in our food.
Many companies use labels that obscure what's actually in our food.

By Cielestia Calbay

The next time you reach for that bottle of reduced fat salad dressing, don’t – because it might be doing more harm than good.

It’s easy to get carried away with product labels screaming “fat free” or “diet,” but don’t let the names fool you. What’s perceived as healthy can actually be packed with calories and a high sugar content, despite its branded, good-for-you image.

Below is a list of seemingly healthy food words and what they translate into according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

  • “Fat Free” – full of sugar and chemicals
  • “Reduced Fat” – increased carbs
  • “Low Fat” – high glycemic index
  • “Sugar Free” – artificial everything else
  • “No Trans Fat” – contains hydrogenated oils
  • “All Natural” – probably one of the most overused food labels, many of these products still contain high fructose corn syrup and other unnatural additives
  • “Light” – unless the product says “reduced fat,” “light” typically refers to a lighter color of the original product, such as light-colored olive oil
  • “Whole Grains” – refined wheat flour in which there might only be a small percentage of actual whole grains


Cielestia Calbay is the associate editor of Competitor Magazine. If she’s not at the office, you’ll probably find her outdoors or scouring the area for the nearest juice bar. She can be reached or @ccalbay

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