What is really in your shopping trolley?

The definition of marketing according to the Oxford Dictionary is:

“The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising”. 

Available to us today are thousands of ‘healthy’ products that are sold to us through clever and effective marketing. Many products we get drawn to happen to jump into our shopping trolley because they promise that the product is “multigrain”, or that it is “now sugar free”. But what do these terms actually mean? Because they sure are advertised to us to be almost life saving at times.



Low-fat- a food can be deemed “low-fat” if it contains less than 3g of fat per 100g. But fat is a macro nutrient the body most definitely can benefit from as it packs a hearty 9Kcal (calories) for every gram of it, so it’s a great energy source. A product can be “Low-fat” but still high in calories if it is loaded full of sugar. It all depends on what your daily calorie needs are as to whether a Low-fat but high Carb product is beneficial to you.


Low-Calorie a food that contains 40Kcal or less per serving. Natural sources of food (beef, nuts, chicken, fruit, veg etc.) all contain calories. So a low-cal option often means something natural is replaced with something artificial which brings the calorie content down. Or it means that quite simply the serving just isn’t a whole lot of food. So check the serving size, will you realistically be eating that serving of 30g when the whole pack weighs 500g?


Now with less sugar this food now contains 25% less than the previous product. Sugar is added to food to make it sweeter and therefore taste better. So the new product is now likely to taste not as good as the one it has just replaced. Also, similar to the low calorie explanation, this new product now may contain more artificial sweeteners with the ingredient list now resembling a chemical experiment. Again, it’s all about calorie consumption, if you don’t go past what your body actually needs, then sugar is not the enemy! (For more information, visit this article: How to actually get lean


Sugar free- sugar free means a product with less than 0.5g of sugar per serving. Is the product sweet? Well then how is there no sugar in it? It’s because it’s chockablock full of chemicals and sweeteners used to replicate the taste. Yes it is lower calorie, but again….. it is putting artificial chemicals in your body.


Diet/Light- means that the food must be at least 30% lower in at least one typical value over the original. For instance, Diet Coke has 30% less sugar than the original, but 30% of the drink doesn’t disappear, so something else has to be added to it.  


Whole grain- is any food that uses every part of the grain. This will generally mean that it will contain more fibre (helps with digestion) as well as more vitamins and minerals (tonnes of benefits- strengthen immune system, function of your cells, aids digestion, health of hair and skin etc). But it doesn’t say how these grains must be formed. So it could mean smashing and crushing it down to create a tortilla wrap. Just beware that most companies now add A LOT of heavily processed ingredients to these wholegrain products; sugar, corn syrup, preservatives etc, especially breakfast cereals and bars.


Multigrain- this one’s not rocket science, it simply means more than one type of grain was used to create the product. It doesn’t mean anything other than that, but you will still see it used as a marketing ploy.


High fibre/fiber- will help massively with GI (gastrointestinal) digestion, will help you feel fuller throughout the day, along with helping you go poop. A food high in fibre will help you, but again, what does your body need at that moment in time? A lot of high fibre foods are high in carbohydrates.


Organic- a food that is a product of a farming system which avoids man made fertilisers and pesticides, along with avoiding additives to help live stock grow faster. It is simply an all round better way to eat. If you’re eating organic meat, it’s going to be of better quality due to the animals essentially not being stuffed full of steroids and if you’re eating organic vegetables; it means no artificial fertilisers (possibly harmful chemicals) being used to help grow the product.


Superfoods- one of my least favourite terms used to give the impression of “healthy”. IT DOES NOT ACTUALLY HAVE AN OFFICIAL DEFINITION. But are generally accepted as foods that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants (protects the body from free radicals) are important for the body, but the generally accepted superfoods (blueberries, brazil nuts, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes etc.) have vastly differing nutritional properties. So smashing back a thousand brazil nuts a day that are high in fat due to them being a super food will make you super size, not superman!


All natural- nothing artificial or synthetic was used or added to the food. Look out and stick with these and organic!


Whole foods- pretty much the same as all natural foods. It simply is real food instead of anything processed (potatoes, corn on the cob, tomatoes etc.).


Made with real fruit- well what on earth was it that I was eating/drinking before? What is in this products competitors? Furthermore, it actually only has to contain a minute trace of the real fruit for them to make this statement. So your pure orange juice may contain “real fruit” but that real fruit may make up 1% of that total drink. If you think about it… the product is still made of real fruit, just a small amount.


Non-GMO- means non-genetically modified organisms. Scary! GMO foods are basically foods that are created in a lab. Check out the ingredient label of that bag of sweets you just picked up… does it have a cocktail of chemicals on there which read like they’re in a different language? Probably a GMO.



So the next time you are in your local supermarket, have a browse at all of the packaging that will surround you, take a second and think back to this article. How many of the listed buzzwords can you spot? And how many of these previously made you buy them due to the assumption that they were ‘good for you’?

Marketing is worth billions and billions each year and there are reasons why major global companies have vast marketing departments. So that they can come up with the most creative ways to sell you a product! Just because it looks pretty, shiny and promises to make you in to batman, it doesn’t necessarily tell you all of the facts. Be smart, be diligent and see through the BS!


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Yours in health.



Some sources that helped to inform this article:

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