Simple Strategies to Avoid "Health Halos"

In my last blog on raising awareness about the dangers of "health halos," we identified a significant problem in our food system that poses tremendous health risks for us all.

Health halos, or manufactured foods (especially from Big Sugar), are marketed through the use of "feel-good" catchphrases, leading people to believe in contrived health benefits. These terms are predominantly featured in the packaging and advertising we see in both grocery stores and restaurant menus. When we see this language all over our shopping and dining options, choosing the right foods can feel like an uphill battle

Trans-fat Free
iStock-629786322 organic natural food labels Local
94% Fat-free
Baked, Not Fried
Reduced Fat

To help us in creating greater “beware-ness” of the health halos
and making the right choices, try these simple strategies.

  • Shop the PerimeteriStock-497892306 fruit & veggies in local market perimeter
    I consider this tactic to be the best line of defense in getting past the health halos. Filling your cart with fresh foods (like fruit, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and nuts) located in the perimeter of the grocery store minimizes your need for packaged goods where the health halos dominate. Packaged goods may seem more convenient to prepare, but most fruits and vegetables require little to no preparation.

  • Do Your Research
    • Check out the website, Chemical Cuisine, which is published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and is an excellent tool for helping you navigate the labels.[ii] It includes a list of ingredients you should avoid (like aspartame, acesulfame K, sucralose, and other artificial sweeteners).
    • Healthy shopping just got a lot easier with Fooducate, a free app that contains thousands of products with user-friendly ratings, including warnings on cholesterol, and even warnings about "unregulated terms."[iii] There are other great tools on this app that are custom-tailored to your diet goals, including weight loss, low-carb, and healthy recipe planning.
  • Read the Online Menu First
    When dining out, check the restaurant's website to review the menu. You can make healthier choices before you get to the restaurant, and prevent impulse buys and other temptations. As an additional resource for better dining-out options, there is a free app called Food Tripping that helps you identify healthy restaurant options when you travel, but you can also use it to find local alternatives.

  • Watch Whole Grains
    Whole grain bread is better for you than those with refined grains, but they can still boost blood sugar levels, and it is high in "bad carbs." Stick with steel cut oatmeal to add the recommended levels of fiber to your diet. Quinoa is also an excellent source of whole grains, but "beware" of packaged goods that pair quinoa with rice, which will also be high in bad carbs.

Eating healthy seems harder than ever, especially with the demands of work, family and our non-stop lifestyles. We need to be aware of these deceiving words when shopping and planning for our meal and snack options.

Reading the New Food Label


Sean Browne

Sean Browne

Former Chief Revenue Officer, CCS Medical

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