TODAY   |  January 21, 2014

How closely are you looking at food labels?

While more than half of American shoppers read labels on the back of food products, how much attention are we paying to the package front? Lynya Floyd, health director for Family Circle magazine, and dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix join TODAY to help decode some tricky labels.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> terms like low fat , gluten free , cage-free are on packages all over the grocery store .

>> here to help us understand the common food labeling is the health director for "family circle" magazine and the author of "read it before you eat it." ladies, good morning.

>> hey.

>> let's get right to this. the labels really are kind of what draws you in to begin with. starting with the color green.

>> exactly. green we all think of as positive connotation. green means good, go, makes us think of nature. it's not necessarily correlated to what's inside the package. there was a study out of cornell university where they showed people identical candy bars , but the nutrition labels were different colors. and people thought that the green nutrition label was better than the other color. so just that color makes people think a product is healthier than it actually might be. so the bottom line is be color blind , think about what's inside the package not outside. it's what's inside that matters.

>> that's a good lesson. good concept. let's move to low fat . because this can be very deceptive. not always low-fat if it says so.

>> low may not be the way to go. if it's low-fat, that means it has 3 grams or less of fat per serving. who ever said fat was the bad guy anyway? nuts olive oil , these foods could help your heart, help control diabetes. and because they're so delicious, they could control your weight because you feel more satisfied when you eat a food with fat in it. and very often when something is low, it's high in something else. so a low-fat product could be high in sugar , salt, calories.

>> so the other one that everybody's jumping on the bandwagon, gluten free . my son's gluten intolerant. but somehow we think it's not only gluten free means healthier and lower in calories and not necessarily the case.

>> not necessarily the case. this is the big craze, right? it's the new diet, people going gluten free . and i think it's fantastic there are so many gluten free products on the market. however, unless you're gluten intolerant, it's not necessarily the right pick for you. what something lacks in gluten, they may make up for in sugar or starches. so you really do need to have a discerning eye. don't go along with the trends.

>> there's confusing trends out there. you don't know what they mean. one of them is reduced sugar versus low sugar . what's the difference there?

>> sugar 's like the master of disguise . so many different names, syrups, fructose, so many different names. reduced sugar actually has a definition that's a product would be 25% less sugar than the original counterpart. again, that doesn't mean it's not a high in fat, high in calories or it even has any health value. low sugar actually means get ready for this one, nothing. there's no standard definition for low sugar . there's none. there is sugar -free. and means that the product has to have half gram of sugar or less per serving. but if you're sitting down with a box of cookies that big, then you know you're not necessarily getting free of sugar . this is where free could be costly.

>> wow. no such thing as a free lunch or free cookie. now, here's the other one that you see on especially cereal boxes or -- whole grain versus multigrain. and you still think, oh, grain, i must be doing good.

>> exactly. and this one really drives me crazy. they caught me on this one a few years ago. what you're looking for is a product that's 100% whole grain. 100%, not just whole grain because if it just says whole grain, it could be 5% or 10%. also multigrain means exactly what it says, more than one grain. and that doesn't mean that the grains that are in it are whole grain. so look for this, the whole grains council has this great stamp, black and gold stamp you can look for that makes it easier to shop for the 100% whole grain products if that's what you're looking for because whole grains are better for you.

>> if they got you, what chance do we have?

>> thanks so much. great to see you both. to find out more about how you can be misled at the grocery store go to