Is that soup or cereal really as healthy as it seems? Maybe not. How to read between the lines on packaging:
Claim: "0 grams trans fat!"
The facts: This doesn't mean that the fat the food does have is the healthy mono- or polyunsaturated kind. "I've seen some that are loaded with an entire day's worth of bad saturated fat. It's misleading," says Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition and food-safety advocacy group in Washington, DC.
Claim: "All natural!"
The facts: Sounds great, but look at the ingredient list. Some products with manufactured high-fructose corn syrup are still allowed to make this claim, even though it's essentially a high-calorie sweetener and preservative.
Claim: "Supports immunity in kids!"
The facts: This is a biggie because parents make the mental leap from "supports immunity" to "prevents colds and flu." And who wouldn't want to snap that up? "You see this claim on cereals, juices, frozen veggies, and sugar-packed drink pouches. But there's nothing magical about that particular product versus another one. Any food with a decent amount of vitamins can say this -- despite whatever other processed garbage may be in it -- because the anti-oxidants in vitamins are, in fact, involved with immunity," Jacobson explains. And vitamins won't have any effect on kids' resistance to illness.
Claim: "Made with 100 percent fruit!"
The facts: Whatever the item, it's unlikely to be as good for your kid as an actual piece of fruit. And don't be bowled over by the "100 percent" part; it means very little if that "real fruit" comprises only 1 percent of the cereal bar. Check the ingredients. If fruit isn't one of the first few on the list, it probably has only a scant amount.