When a company’s website shows product nutrition data, but does not provide ingredient information, it’s an indicator you should avoid its foods.
Why are the ingredients so important?
Because the nutrition facts label can easily be manipulated to make a product seem much healthier than it actually is.
- Calories – it’s easy to reduce calories by using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar and by using various processed fillers instead of fat.
- Hidden Trans-fats – due to a loophole in FDA regulations, products using partially hydrogenated oils may still be labeled as containing 0 trans-fats, as long as the trans-fats add up to less than half a gram. But even half a gram of trans-fats is dangerous to consume. What’s more, often serving sizes are tiny and people consume more than half a gram of trans-fats.
- Fiber – knowing that fiber is an important nutrient, companies are now bulking up their bars, breads, cereals, yogurts and snacks with inulin, a problematic additive.
- Calcium, Vitamin C and other micro-nutrients – processed foods tend to lose some of their nutrients. Vitamin C is notoriously fickle and tends to evaporate very quickly from whole foods once they are cut up and processed. Other foods, low in nutrients, are fortified to make them seem healthier.
By looking at a product’s ingredient list, It’s easy to know if the desirable nutrients are the result of whole foods, or a mix of junk food with nutrient add-ons. That’s why the FDA mandates ingredient lists on product packaging.
However, such information is not available for fast-food and sit-down restaurants. Take Applebee’s, for example. While the company does provide a (hard to read) PDF file listing their product nutrition facts, there is absolutely no ingredient information to be found on its website. Steer clear.