'Natural' on Food Labels Can Be Misleading

How healthy is your diet? Be honest. If you’re like most people, you could probably cut back on sweets and soft drinks and eat more fruits and vegetables. Sound familiar? When you have the kind of day that makes you realize you could eat a little better, you head to the grocery store with healthy on your mind. However, just because a food package says “natural” doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Cruise through the aisles, and you’ll find products labeled with variations of “natural” such as “all-natural,” “made with natural ingredients,” “natural flavoring,” etc. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 66 percent of shoppers think “natural” on a food label means the product contains no artificial ingredients, pesticides, or genetically-modified organisms (aka GMOs). But that’s just not the case when it comes to “natural” on food packages.

Most food products, regardless of nutritional value, are made with some kind of natural ingredients. For example, soda contains water, many candy bars contain nuts, and even highly-processed foods contain some natural ingredients. You can’t rely on “natural” printed on food packaging to decide if something is healthy.

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearly explains the problem with marketing food products this way: “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.” The FDA doesn’t regulate the use of the word “natural” on food packaging, but suggests it can be used if the food “does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

Many health experts agree that “natural” is an ambiguous term on food labels that doesn’t help the shopper make an informed decision about what’s healthy and what’s not. Tired of trying to sort through the confusion at the grocery store to eat healthy, watch your weight, and control portion sizes? MagicKitchen.com meals are made from fresh ingredients without preservatives and flash frozen. It’s just like making your own meal from scratch with fresh foods and natural ingredients, but without making a mess in the kitchen.