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The price of 'free' foods

(Tribune Newspapers) "Free-from" food products, whether they're labeled sugar-free, fat-free or gluten-free, are fast becoming a trendy lifestyle choice, regardless of allergies or intolerance
The popularity of these products, tastier and more widely available than ever, is driven by health-focused consumers, research firms say. These so-called avoiders are also swayed by the "health halo," or the perception that the product is better for you because it's lacking an ingredient or nutrient, said Andy Bellatti, a Seattle-based nutritionist and the author of the Small Bites blog…
Products labeled gluten-free and dairy-free have shown the most growth. But free-from processed foods aren't necessarily better choices. A fat-free cookie, for example, is mostly refined grains and sugar and offers no nutrition, Bellatti said. On the other hand, an avocado is full of fat and is much healthier than a fat-free energy bar.
Meanwhile, "a sugar-free product can nevertheless contain troubling ingredients, such as genetically modified corn byproducts, artificial dyes and artificial sweeteners," said Bellatti. "The path toward health is paved with real, whole foods, not artificially produced goods free of a particular nutrient," he said.
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