Natural? Organic? Sugar-Free? Low Fat? And what the heck is Gluten? You’re trying to get the most nutrients in your body while steering clear of additives, allergens, chemicals and empty calories. But, how do you do that when so many labels scream “I’M THE HEALTHY ONE. EAT ME?”

See GymIt Memberships

Label Reading 101

Here’s the skinny on some common labels…

All Natural/Natural:

The USDA calls for “Natural” products to be minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. However, the items are not necessarily free of antibiotics, growth hormones or chemicals.

organic nutrientOrganic:

There are three types of organic foods labels. The organic food labels are well-defined! It’s easy to know what you’re getting if you pay attention.

Made with Organic Ingredients means 70% of a product is organic. The production of the food might involve sewage/sludge-based fertilizer or ionizing radiation.
Organic means 95% of the product is organic. This means the production of the food does not involve antibiotics, petroleum, bio-engineering, sewage/sludge-based fertilizer or growth hormones.
100% Organic! Yep, some foods are completely organic.

*Keep in mind that while you are not consuming pesticides and other chemicals when you eat organic and might be avoiding certain preservatives and chemicals when you consume “natural” food, the label doesn’t automatically make an item healthy in other ways. From a nutrition standpoint, an organic label doesn’t necessarily alter the amount of vitamins and minerals in a food or reduce the amount of sugar or saturated fat.

Gluten Free:

Gluten Free foods don’t have wheat proteins in them. If you have celiac disease or another medical reason to avoid wheat proteins, a gluten-free diet is for you! However, if you don’t have celiac disease or a bad reaction to those proteins, going gluten-free isn’t necessarily healthier for you.

You May Also Like: Okay, I’m Eating Healthy, But Why Am I Always so Hungry?

Sugar/Sweetener labels are pretty straightforward:

Sugar-Free: There is no or a negligible amount of sugar.
No Added Sugar: No additional sugar was added during processing.
Unsweetened/No Added Sweetener: No sweeteners were added during processing.
Reduced Sugar: This item has less sugar than the baseline version of the product. Read the label to see how much sugar is in a serving.

*A product that is “sugar-free” might contain chemical sweeteners that can pose health problems for some individuals. Eating sugar-free, but still sweetened does not always render weight loss or better health for everyone according to the experts. Read more before you decide your best course of action.

Low Fat/Reduced Fat or Sodium:

If a product is labeled low/reduced fat or sodium that means it has a less fat or sodium than the “regular” product. You still need to read the label to determine how much fat or sodium is in a serving to understand what you’ll be consuming.