Advertising Claims on Food Packaging

Words on packages can be deceiving. For example, "Contains real fruit juice!" sounds pretty good, until you ask yourself “how much real fruit juice?”, then read the ingredient list and see that the product is mostly corn syrup (an added sugar), and only 0.3 percent real fruit juice!

You should always check the ingredient list and the nutrition facts panel to test the validity of a health claim.

Below are some explanations of commonly-used claims to help you translate any "label babble" you come across.


Claim Means What to watch out for
Calorie-free Less than 5 calories per serving The ingredients may be unknown. Ask yourself what  are the ingredients?
Low-calorie Maximum of 40 calories per serving Don’t use “low-calorie” as an excuse to have larger portions.
Fat-free Less than ½ gram fat per serving Fat-free products (such as soft drinks, fruit juices, bread, pasta and alcoholic drinks) can still be high in calories if they contain large amounts of sugar (or sugar alcohol), or if large amounts are consumed.
Low-fat Must contain no more than 3 grams total fat per serving, or no more than 1.5 grams fat in liquid food product. Low-fat products, like fat-free products, can still be high in calories from sugar.
Reduced-fat The food must not contain more than 75 percent of the total fat content of the same quantity of the regular food product or reference food Reduced-fat foods are not necessarily low in fat. For example, reduced-fat milk, cheese, margarine spreads, mayonnaise, sour cream and dairy desserts are still high in fat.
Sugar-free Less than ½ gram sugar per serving. Sugar-free doesn’t mean calorie-free. Also, the product may contain sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners. If this is a problem for you, limit intake.
Low-sodium Less than 140mg of salt per serving Some low-sodium products have added sugar or high fat to make up for lack of flavor.
Low-cholesterol Less than 20mg of cholesterol and 2 grams of saturated fat per serving This food label can be confusing, as it is often interpreted to mean no-fat or low-fat. Many foods such as oils, vegetable margarines, avocado and nuts are free of cholesterol but remain high in fat.
Reduced 25 percent less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product Stay aware of serving sizes.
Good source of Provides at least 10 percent of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving Read the nutrient facts label to get complete information about the product.
High in / Rich In / Excellent Source Of Provides 20 percent or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving Read the nutritional facts label to get complete information about the product.
High-fiber 5 or more grams of fiber per serving Read the nutritional facts label to get complete information about the product.
Lean (meat, poultry, seafood) 10 or less grams of fat, 4 ½ or less grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per 100 grams. Watch serving sizes – less fat does not mean you can eat more food.
Cooked in vegetable oil Product is cooked in vegetable oil This doesn’t necessarily mean the food is cooked in healthy (polyunsaturated or mono-unsaturated) oil. One of the most common vegetable oils used to fry high-fat snacks and fast foods is palm oil, which is 50 percent saturated fat!
Lite/Light 50 percent less fat, or 1/3 fewer calories than the regular version.  This term is often confusing as manufacturers also use the term "lite" or "light" to refer to sugar, salt, fat or even the food's color or flavor. For example: * “Light” olive oil has a blander, mild flavor, but still the same amount of fat and calories as regular olive oil. * “Light” cheese has less fat and occasionally less salt; however, the fat content can still be high.
Natural Made from natural ingredients. A label may state that the all ingredients are natural, but this does not mean that the product is low in fat or calories. And don’t forget - many naturally-occurring plant substances actually contain toxins that can be detrimental to our health.