Don’t judge a granola bar by its wrapper.
Recent research from New York healthcare network Northwell Health found that parents often choose snacks for their kids because the packaging and associated marketing make it appear to be healthy, when the nutrition label tells a far less wholesome story.
“Food marketing can heavily influence which products parents believe to be healthy,” write the study’s authors, Northwell Health pediatrician Ruth Milanaik and Cornell University senior Sharnendra Sidhu.
It’s not just parents who get duped, says Lisa Young, an adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU Steinhardt. Adults make similarly unwise choices for themselves, grabbing a high-calorie salad for lunch or snacking on sugary “sports” bars.
“Buzzwords trick people,” Young says. “Gluten-free organic cookies are still cookies.”
To illustrate this point, we paired five seemingly healthy foods with their obviously unhealthy counterparts and found that the supposedly virtuous option often had similar — or poorer — nutrition.
“You need to learn to label-read,” says New York nutritionist Keri Gans. “Don’t assume you know the healthier choice.”