It happens to all of us.  The supermarket is full of misleading marketing but we can catch them in the act.

Protein Packed… Lettuce?

Now, I’m not saying skip your greens.  Greens are lovely.  I enjoy them many ways.  But a certain amount of skepticism is required when you see a claim that suggests a handful of salad greens have nearly as much protein as an egg (6 grams).

Protein Greens Salad Clamshell Front Label

The Marketing Trick

I didn’t notice the label initially– beyond the listing of pea shoots, which I think are delicious.  When I went to open it, I picked up on the “5 grams plant protein.”  Well, the plant part is certainly true.  But five grams seems like a rather high amount for a water-rich vegetable that just doesn’t have that many calories. How did they make that math work?
Protein Greens Nutrition Facts Label
They manipulated the serving size.

See it underlined in red to the right.

This is an unreasonable serving size: the whole package.  Few Americans would eat this much straight salad in one sitting.  Tested: we had salad for dinner. The 4.2 oz package served two people, had leftovers for the next day and a bit left in the container.

So, it’s just salad, right?  Does it matter?

Why Misleading Marketing Matters

First, this clamshell of greens was a bit more expensive than the grocery store blend of mixed greens or baby spinach (they would be nutritionally similar substitute).  It’s considerably more expensive than buying a whole head of leaf lettuce.  Experienced shoppers on truly tight budgets tend to be very aware of these tricks, but less experienced shoppers and/or those more vulnerable to marketing may think they are getting nutrients that just aren’t in the package.

Second, some people either need to achieve certain protein goals or stay under certain protein goals.  Misleading marketing makes them more likely to avoid a healthy product they could actually fit into a protein-restricted diet.  On the other hand, people might eat this thinking they are achieving important protein goals when they are not.  Who might this be?  Think about competitive amateur athletes (college sports), cancer patients or women pregnant with multiples (twins or triplets).

Realistically, your average reasonably healthy adult is not going to be affected by this nutritionally as long as they don’t substitute a handful of greens for a lean protein like eggs, beans, tofu, poultry, fish, or meat.  A general strategy for good nutrition in spite of marketers is to just eat all sorts of different foods at your meals– including salad greens when it’s salad season!  Concerned about your nutrition? Get in touch.

The Principle

Labeling laws try to make this type of marketing more difficult.  You, as the consumer, can always compare front of label claims to the Nutrition Facts panel.  Look at the serving size.  Look at the servings per package, if listed.  Check out different packages of candy the next time you are waiting by a register– compare a “sharing size” to a regular size for practice.  These are your keys to finding out when marketers are manipulating you with a the blurb on the front.

Want to let Organic Girl know what you think about misleading front of pack labels? Drop them a note.

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