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How We Are Subtly Convinced That Snack Food is Healthy by Deceptive Health Food Advertising

Food marketers are smart. They know that we want to think we are buying healthy food. They don't need to sell healthy food. We just need to think it is healthy. And here is how they do it: Food advertising that, though technically true, is deceptive to most consumers.

healthy food on grocery store shelves

There are words, phrases, images, and colors that evoke the feeling of healthiness. Advertisement designers use these to convey an image of "healthy food." This is deceptive health food advertising. Here are examples of these techniques.

Techniques Used to Market Food as Healthy: Deceptive Health Food Advertising

Words and Phrases

You will see these words and phrases on the product's front label and in advertisements.

  • natural

  • simple

  • pure

  • plant-based

  • organic

  • non GMO

  • antioxidant

  • protein

  • gluten free

  • oats

  • honey

  • original

  • ancient grain

  • health/healthy

  • choice


These images are found on the food package and on advertisements. Sometimes they are prominent images, and sometimes they are in the background or faded out.

  • plants

  • farms

  • insects

  • grains

  • outdoor scenes

  • mountains

  • globe

  • earth

  • people engaged in exercise or sports

  • simple graphics


The color of the package, images, and lettering are used to further convey healthiness. Here are some colors you will see.

  • green

  • brown

  • blue

  • earthy tones

  • single color on package

How to Use this Information: Be an Educated Consumer

What should this information mean to you? It does not mean you should or should not eat foods that are advertised with these techniques. It merely suggests that you use the information you have to make an educated choice. Take a closer look at the ingredients and nutrition facts, and you can prevent yourself from being mislead by deceptive health food advertising.

Here is an example to illustrate this. If a breakfast bar has sugar listed three separate times on the nutrition facts, it does not matter if it is "natural," "organic," and has pictures of grains. This breakfast bar is a cookie, not a health food. If you want to eat a cookie, and you like the way this breakfast bar cookie tastes, go for it. If you want a nutritious, low sugar breakfast food, you are probably better off with something else. By looking at the information you have, you won't be mislead by deceptive health food advertising.

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