Defining What “Healthy” Means For Consumers and Product Developers

Posted February 12, 2018 by Keith Seiz

An interesting segment ran on the Today Show recently naming the top 50 healthy foods and snacks. The website, Eat This, Not That!, was responsible for the list, and they did a great job. Not necessarily in determining the 50 snacks and beverages, but in setting the criteria for what they consider “healthy.”

The word “healthy” is a time bomb, especially if you’re marketing a food or beverage product, or an ingredient that will go into a product. It’s not a word that can just be thrown around, as the Food & Drug Administration has set criteria for the use of a “healthy” labeling claim on packaged products. If you want to go down a rabbit hole, you can read the regulation in its entirety.

But don’t invest too much time in it, because it’s changing. Why? Evolving nutritional research has rendered the old guidelines obsolete. Under the old guidelines, a product was deemed “healthy” by meeting requirements for amount of total fat, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol in a product, while also including key beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Give me the “healthy” fat

Makes sense, right? Not really. A fat’s not a fat. And many high in fat products, including nuts, olives and avocados, were excluded from being called “healthy,” even though most registered dieticians considered them part of a healthy diet.

So new guidance was issued, and the FDA is currently in the process of officially redefining what “healthy” means on food packaging. In the meantime, it’s up to consumers to set their own guidelines for healthy eating.

For the and the “Eat This, Not That” Awards, they defined healthy with four parameters.

  • Lean Proteins
  • Healthy Fats
  • Good for you Carbs
  • Simple and Pronounceable Ingredients

In my opinion, these criteria are spot on. However, do most consumers know the difference between a good and bad fat? Do they understand what a “good for you carb” is and is not?

What we used to think was healthy

Undoubtedly, more consumers know the difference than ever before, but there is still a gap in education. Many consumers still determine healthy eating by consuming products that meet these three dated criteria:

  • Low fat
  • Low sugar
  • Low calories

Not only is this wrong, but it also has led us to the global obesity crisis we’re in today. To eliminate all confusion about “healthy” eating, I suggest consumers simply focus on eating more real food. Learn what a processed food and artificial ingredient is, and buy less of them.

Start reading labels and only buy products where you recognize the ingredients in the product. I know that spray butter is zero calories, but it’s also filled with chemicals. Buy the real stuff instead.

Food and beverage developers are amazing today. They’ve cracked the code of bringing healthy products to the market that taste great and use responsibly sourced ingredients. Buy them and eat them! I can personally recommend the five following products from the Today Show list. They are mainstays in my pantry!



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