Beat The Food Marketing Traps - Week 5

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

We make everyday purchasing decisions based on colours, designs and buzzwords like 'low fat' or 'gluten free'.

So how can we avoid falling into tmarketing traps and buying food which isn't what it seems? Let's get to know the ways they've been hoodwinking us!

Take a closer look at the labels.

What do labels do foods need?

Ingredients – listed in content of weight most to least so obviously – if you look at a jar of strawberry jam and first is strawberries vs one saying sugar first...they will sometimes say the percentage in content e.g strawberry 50%.

Here is a couple of examples :


Bonne Maman

Strawberries, Sugar, Brown Cane Sugar, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Gelling Agent: Fruit Pectin, Prepared with 50g of Strawberries per 100g, Total Sugar content: 60g per 100g

See Sugar came first then when you keep looking down – it says 35g is made of fruit and that makes up 65g of sugar per 100g.


Sugar, Scottish Strawberries, Gelling Agent: Fruit Pectin, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid, Prepared with 35g of Fruit per 100g, Total Sugar content 65g per 100g

Or jar of pasta sauce

Lloyd Grossman

Tomatoes (77%), Tomato Paste (11%), Cornflour, Onion, Carrot, Sugar, Garlic, Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Oregano), Salt, Lemon Juice, Yeast Extract Powder, Ground Herbs (Marjoram, Thyme, Sage), Ground Black Pepper


Tesco’s own

Tomato (57%), Partially Reconstituted Tomato Purée (24%), Yellow Pepper (4%), Red Pepper (3%), Courgette (3%), Lemon Juice from Concentrate, Sugar, Cornflour, Onion, Salt, Herbs, Onion Powder, Rapeseed Oil, Garlic Purée.

*note that if an ingredient you are allergic to has been processed in a way the allergen is not longer present it will not be listed.

Gluten free needs less than 20 parts in a million.

Label will say kilojoule or kilocalorie (kj) and (Kcal) - same thing really.

All out of 100g


intake Total fat Saturated fat Sugars Salt

High More than 17.5g More than 5g More than 22.5g More than 1.5g or 0.6g sodium

Low Less than 3g Less than 1.5g Less than 5g Less than 0.3g or 0.1g sodium

So how much Reference Intake (RI)? This is REFERENCE only – everyone is different!

Average person

8,400 KJ / 2,000kcal

Total fat –70g

Saturates – 20g

Sugars – 90g

Salt – 6g

Simple labels in amber, red or green.

Remember - when comparing labels of two products, be sure to compare with the same amount e.g xyz sugars per 100g. Because often it will say 'sugars per 30g or 25g serving'. So ensure you are looking at ' per 100g' to make sure the comparison is accurate.

So how about Marketing terminology?

“USE BY DATE” - must use by the date here to avoid food poisoning.

“BEST BEFORE DATE” - deterioration of food quality – can still eat so long as cooked. (display until and sell by are for retailers not consumers)

“Reduced in XYZ” - must be 25% less than comparable product e.g reduced salt.

“Low in sugar” must be less than 5g in 100g or 2.5g per 100ml

“Low fat” must be less than 3g per 100g or 1.5g in 100ml

“Low in Saturated fat” must be less than 1.5g in 100g or 0.75g In 100ml or less than 10% in total energy if trans fat.

“Low in sodium” Must be less than 0.12g in 100g or 100ml.

“Light or Diet” only need to be lower in one component eg either calories or fat – must be 30% less than usual standard. Also need to show by how much e.g 30% less fat.


  • Fat free – less than 0.5g per 100g

  • Saturated fat free – less than 0.1g per 100g

  • Sugar free – less than 0.5g in 100g

  • Sodium free – less than 5mg per 100g.

“Source of...”

  • Protein – must have more than 12% of energy from protein and over 12g.

  • A vitamin – 15% of RDA

  • Fibre – more than 3g per 100g of RDI.

“High” or “rich in”

  • Protein – must be more than 12% energy and 12g or more.

  • Vitamin – 30%+ of RDA

  • Fibre – More than 6g or 100g of RDI

“No added sugar” - doesn’t mean no sugar – just not extra added. May have sweetener.

“Unsweetened” - No sugar or sweetener added

Tips and swaps

Love coffee? Me too! Try Americano instead of a latte etc.

E.G Costa 12oz (340ml) - Primo* coffee latte with skimmed milk is 66 cals, semi skimmed milk is 93 cals., full fat I 173.

Americano with skimmed milk 13 cals, (no milk is 6 cals), full fat is 20 cals, 15 cals soya milk and 13cals for coconut milk.

What if you really want something?

If you really want something (cake/ biscuit whatever) wait 10 mins and drink water. If you still want it, try eat just half of it. If you can’t (if you are anything like me!) Have a something healthy first like a piece of fruit or some veg first – like an apple or banana or tomatoes etc. Why? A) you may find after having the healthy food you don’t want the treat or if you still have it anyway, it will help you blunt the sugar spike which processed food usually has therefore, you won’t want to reach of the next bad snack etc and also it will keep you fuller for longer from the fibre.

Use spices and herbs to add flavourings and extra minerals

Did you know Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, supports immune system – helps digestions. Good for inflammation of joints and muscles.

OR what about Parsley

which strengthens heart health by generating the important B vitamin of folic acid reduces level of homocysteine which if high in levels can damage blood vessels.

You may want to try food preps.

(some of the tips on my previous post)

Don't assume all 'light' or Diet' food is good or a better option.

If I’m honest – because usually replacements come from more chemicals to replace the flavour – yes it might be fat free but it’s made up for it by adding tons of sugar – which unused – is stored into fat anyway. Or a reduce in ‘sugar’ may be replaces with artificial sweeteners or replacement flavourings. A lot of the nutrient density is also removed along with it – think greek yoghurt – protein is being removed too. Mentally – you don’t feel fully satisfied from it. You act differently around it – you eat more because you feel like you can, you feel like it hasn’t satisfied you because it’s not the ‘real thing’. Often it keeps you fuller for longer too – think greek yoghurt vs light yoghurt. SOME things I can go light etc such as cheddar or cream cheese because I actually don’t feel cheated eating a lighter version and because it is made lighter because they are using skimmed milk.

But take away – is that you shouldn’t assume ‘light’ or ‘diet’ is better, read the labels and compare!

Don't assume ‘gluten free’ or ‘vegan’ or ‘no artificial this and that’ means it's GOOD for you. Each product and brand is different.

Still want to snack on something more after dinner?

Me too sometimes. I snack on peas in the pod or sweetcorn on the cob. I just boil some and pick through it. It gives your hands something to do and is a healthy snack!

I also like to use cacao powder in stuff if I am craving chocolate.

Often, I crave is during period (cliché!) but having something sweet and chocolatey without it actually being chocolatey works – e.g I have it in porridge, I have it in fruit smoothies, I have in with yoghurt and fruit.

And if I want to have actual chocolate – do I have chocolate? You bet your butt I do!

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