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All Natural Free Range Low Cal Hand Waving

Member Forum >> Food and Diet >> All Natural Free Range Low Cal Hand Waving

Bob Niland

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Posted: 11/30/2014 11:52:22 AM
Edited: 6/10/2017 7:38:48 PM (36)
All Natural Free Range Low Cal Hand Waving

All Natural Free Range Low Cal Hand Waving

Edition: 2017-06-10

Product formulators and their marketing departments invest a lot of effort in package design and messaging.

They routinely test various approaches with focus groups. The strategies probably do work, in terms of one variant generating incremental sales over others.

But product packaging (for pretty much everything, not just food) is aimed closing the sale - presenting whatever hot buttons are trendy - and rarely has anything to do with informed consumer decision making.

I periodically take notice of common prominent phrases on food packages, and herewith offer some translations of what they really mean. This is just about broad claims, by the way. I could generate an entire web site on specific charlatan ingredients like “evaporated cane juice” and “honey”.

{not stated}

Means: you wouldn’t buy the product if they told you.
Often the most important statement on the package is the one that is not there at all. At the top of the list of MIA statements is country of origin (COO).

In the 21st century, if the maker omits this it’s because including it would reduce sales. In the 20th century, COO was often omitted due to multiple-sourcing and avoiding the expense of package text churn. Now, you need to assume it’s because it would say “Made in Elbonia” (or some other toxic locale).

On COO, these are not COO statements:
Packed in USA
Packaged in USA
Manufactured for Brand Name, Metropolis, USA
All of those actually mean “…using one or more (probably key) ingredients not of USA origin”.

The next big Conspicuously Absent claims are:
• Non GMO, and
• organic.
If they are missing, you can be sure the product is GMO and/or non-organic. You may less often encounter products where just some of the ingredients are non-GMO and/or organic. Pay close attention to the other ingredients. Sometimes it’s not a big deal.

All Natural

Means: Contains no supernatural ingredients.
All seriousness aside, when more than one ingredient is present, it typically translates to: they persuaded the FDA that their synthetic ingredients are chemically identical to actual natural ingredients, or, they found arguably natural sources for multiple ingredients you would not consume if they had just put them in as refined chemicals. See “No Added Nitrates” below for an actually unfortunate example.

They want you to think it means “Non-GMO” and/or “organic”.
It doesn’t.


Means: Do not look at the Ingredients list.
The product is generally a health disaster, but they dug deep, and found one ingredient that might have had some marginal benefit, as long as you didn’t consume it as part of that particular product. On Wheat Belly, by the way, anti-oxidant properties of whole foods are considered beneficial but are not a major focus.


Means: not
The word is meaningless unless qualified by a reference to some external standard for what balanced is. If there is a reference, you can then usually assess that it’s some bogus consensus nutritional profile.

In nutrition bars, by the way, “balance” used to mean 40:30:30 (carb:protein:fat). Balance brand still does. Zone Perfect is tiptoeing away from that. Both brands are still too high in carbs, too low in fat, and loaded with typical toxins (wheat, soy, sugar, rice, emulsifiers, etc.).

Quest Nutrition claims a “perfect nutritional profile” for their products. Nope: still way too low in fat (and lately reformulated beyond repair).

As much Calcium as…

Means: Now includes coronary plaque
Calcium fortification is a health disaster. There might be an exception for calcium hydroxyappatite in a diet with ample Magnesium, Vitamin D3, Vitamin K (MK-4, MK-7), and no grains. You’re probably not gazing on the label for such a product.

Low Calorie

Means: They don’t get nutrition and they hope you don’t either.
They may have just reduced the portion size, hoping you’ll eat more/larger portions. Or they may have reduced the nutritional content of the product. The FDA’s recently renewed vendetta on calories is not helping here. Until the CICO zombie finally gets killed completely dead, expect continued Low Cal warning labels on products.

No/Low Cholesterol

Means: high carbs and/or high adverse fats (usually)
Even Ancel Keys admitted that dietary cholesterol DID NOT MATTER. Anyone who still thinks it matters is dangerous.


Means: still too glycemic and all other bets are off on other toxins
Food products that meet ADA recommendations, at the very least, keep diabetics diabetic; they may even cause it. Until the ADA is replaced by some other group that is honest about T2D (and doesn’t confound it with T1D), “diabetic” is a warning label.


Means: nothing in particular
This is a generic warning label. It’s hard to predict what nonsense informed the product formulation.


Means: pure sugar
Many Energy products would be 133% sugar if they could figure out how to do that. As athletes come to understand the bankruptcy of “carb loading”, and reconsider the wisdom of feeding fast carbs into glycogen depletion, expect the energy branding to morph, or diminish. Meanwhile, avoid it absolutely.

Low/No/Non Fat

Means: high carb
This is another common admission that “They don’t get nutrition and they hope you don’t either.”

In the specific case of dairy, skim and part skim means deficient in Vitamin K among other things, and whatever is missing seems to correlate with higher risk of Parkinson’s.

Free Range

Means: CAFO
The barn with 200,000 chickens has a small door that lets 8 birds into a 4×4-foot outside pen of bare dirt. For some reason none of them ever go out there. The phrases you really want to see are “pastured” or “pasture-raised”.

Gluten Free

Means: Run away screaming.
…unless it’s just a minor footnote on the package. Dr. Davis has cautioned on this any number of times. I’ve written specifically about this branding here.


Means: probably not
It turns out that the FDA pays some attention to this, but they are stuck on fail.

Heart Check-Off

Means: Causes heart disease
This American Heart Association warning label conveniently identifies foods often worth actively avoiding. If a product bearing this logo is actually healthy (and a few are), it’s purely by accident. The requirements include low fat, low sat fat, low cholesterol, low sodium, do not require zero trans fat, pay no particular attention to Omega 6 linoleic acid, no particular attention to net carbs, and do allow added calcium. Consequently, high carb and added wheat are common. Yes, this also tells you a lot about the AHA.

High Fiber

Means: you’re lucky they didn’t pad it with sawdust (and maybe they did)
Odds are high that this fiber will pass through you completely unutilized – even your gut bacteria will pass it up. That’s not something you need in your diet. Unless the product makes credible statements about the fiber being an actual prebiotic, take HF as a warning.

Fire Roasted

Means: the crown sheet above the conveyor burners finally failed, so they just discarded it
The only benefit to seeing this term (or “baked”) is that it does mean “not fried”).

Home Style

Means: nothing in particular other than the higher price
Take it as incentive to give the Nutrition Facts panel more than average scrutiny. They may have added even more adverse junk to try to make the on-plate presentation look a tiny bit less industrial.

“Artisan” and “artisanal” mean the same thing, except the price will be even higher.


I suspect it was spelled that way to avoid FDA rules on “light”, but the FDA caught up with it:
21CFR101.56 Nutrient content claims for “light” or “lite.”
It’s the same old official disaster.

See “Low Fat”

No Added Nitrates

Means: they’re there, but called something else
This one is just a sad commentary on chemical terms and consumer awareness. What we want to avoid are nitrites. Nitrates aren’t a real problem, but because buyers get confused, they have to hide them, usually as “celery juice” or “celery powder”.


Means: not nutritious
This is another word-like character string that has no specific meaning in statute, regulation or case law. Yes, it’s actually more vague than All Natural.

Packed in Oil

Means (too often): an oil you don’t want to consume, that leeched out all the nutrients
Seafood packed in oil can actually be desirable, but it needs to be an oil that’s safe to consume on its own (such as olive oil, if credible), and not an industrial grain or seed oil (“vegetable oil”).

High/With Omega 3

Means: high n3 ALA, which you probably don’t need more of
Unless the package specifically states ω3 DHA and EPA, and precisely how much, it’s mostly if not entirely ALA. Many products with added ω3 are doing so to distract you from the fact that they contain adverse amounts of ω6 linoleic acid. Adding ω3 does not fix that.

Reduced {something}

Means: blander taste, but increased margins
Any actual nutritional benefit is accidental and probably counter to the business plan. This is another common admission that “They don’t get nutrition and they hope you don’t either.”

Sea Salt

Means: they prefer utterly clueless customers
All food-grade salt is sea salt. It’s just a question of how long ago it was sea water, what’s been removed, what’s been left in, and what’s been added. What you want to see is (pink) Himalayan or other ancient mined salt (which won’t be branded as “sea salt”).

Low Sodium

Means: they’ll tell you whatever you want to hear
This is another common admission that “They don’t get nutrition and they hope you don’t either.”


Means: sky high glycemic, possibly higher protein, or in the case of drinks perhaps some token electrolytes
This is the same as “energy” but perhaps with slightly less sugar, and possibly some Asian taurine. Expect no change in fat until after the revolution. Watch out for the usual toxins.

Sugar Free

Usually means: high glycemic/high toxin disguised as other junk
This most often means artificial sweeteners that you really need to think twice about consuming, but can also mean loaded with supposed “complex” sugars that still elevate blood sugars above WB targets.


Means: generic warning - and usually a financial hazard
Although Wiki took a crack at defining it, it usually means that the promoter has myopically focused on some specific nutrient(s) as the answer to your ailment(s), but is unwilling to make specific health claims that they could be held to.

0g Trans Fats

Means: they finally got the FDA memo that was 30 years overdue
Expect this also to mean that they replaced the TFs with different hazardous fats (usually PUFA industrial seed oils heavy in Omega 6 LA).

Whole Grain

Means: 100% of the grain toxin plus useless fiber, insect fragments and rodent droppings
“Whole grain” is a term of art that doesn’t mean “intact kernel”. It just means that the whole kernel (bran, endosperm and germ) was present when cracked, ground, puffed, rolled or steel cut to ensure that you get the full toxic load. “Refined grain” omits the bran and germ.

Wild Caught

Means: offshore farmed fish, easily GMO fish to boot
and fed stuff you don’t want to know about, which stuff results in it being high in Omega 6 LA and deficient in Omega 3 DHA&EPA. The phrase “wild caught” is not effectively enforced to mean what they want you to think it means, with the sole exception of “Alaska Wild Caught” which is actively monitored by the state of Alaska. Look also for Country of Origin, and expect to not find any satisfactory data.

With, or Made With (insert trendy ingredient name here)

Means: they added just enough trendy to justify these big letters
But it’s not the dose of trendy you were looking for, and probably not the ideal form of trendy, and the trendy may not even be a wise thing to have added (despite being trendy).

Well, OK, one more…

Made With Real Cheese/Fruit or whatever

Means: I think you can figure it out
According to Wheat Belly Total Health (p137) less than 2% of what’s sold as “food” in typical supermarkets is actually fit for routine human consumption. But 100% is pretending to be. What’s explained above is a just part of how product producers play that game.

Randall Munroe’s take on this (xkcd) is not far off the mark:
xkcd 1774: Adjective Foods

Bob Niland [disclosures] [topics]



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Bob Niland

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The ultimate grocery purchasing system: buy real food.  Nothing in a wrapper, unless the item wrapped is real food.