With so many claims plastered on food labels, things can get really confusing when you're grocery shopping. Food companies use these claims to make you think products are healthier than they really are. Here are the top 10 food-label pitfalls you should watch out for.


The term "natural" is not well-defined by the FDA, so when you see the word on the label, just ignore it.

2 Cholesterol-free

All foods that come from a plant -- such as fruits, veggies, grains, nuts and seeds -- are free of cholesterol. So "cholesterol-free" labels on those foods mean nothing.

3 Trans-fat-free

Be aware that trace amounts of trans fat can be hidden in many foods. The giveaway: Look for words such as "partially hydrogenated" on the ingredient list.

4 Organic

Organic foods can be expensive, but they aren't always worth it. Be strategic about splurging your hard-earned cash on organic products.

5 Sugars: added vs. natural

Look at the ingredients to decipher if the sugar is natural or added to the product.

6 Omega-3 fats

Not all omega-3s are created equal. Those from flax (called ALA) don't have all the benefits (such as helping with heart health) when compared with the omega-3s derived from fatty fish such as salmon and tuna (called DHA and EPA). Knowing which types of omega-3 fats are in foods is the important part.


Just like omega-3 fats, not all fibers are created equal. Some fiber is added to food products and might not be as healthy as fiber that's naturally occurring.


In some cases, "reduced-fat" might mean that more sugar was added to replace some of the flavor.

9Serving size

The most common mistake around: Thinking the calories on the label are for the entire product. Always check the serving size.

10Added vitamins and minerals

Just because a product has 100 percent of the daily value for vitamins and minerals doesn't mean it should be in your shopping cart.