Manufacturers can be tricky with the claims they put on their packages. Although the government regulates some claims, manufacturers still find ways to make their products sound better than they are. Here are some common claims that can be misleading and what they really mean.

Do you ever find yourself looking at a food product and trying to figure out whether it’s really good for you? A study from food manufacturer Crispy Green polled 2,000 Americans and found that more than half feel that food labels can be misleading and that 82 percent felt like they had been tricked by a health claim. Nearly half said that they had eaten something for more than a year only to find out it wasn’t nearly as healthy as they thought.

Manufacturers can be tricky with the claims they put on their packages. Although the government regulates some claims, manufacturers still find ways to make their products sound better than they are. Here are some common claims that can be misleading and what they really mean.

Gluten-Free: Gluten is a naturally occurring protein in wheat, rye and barley. To be labeled gluten-free, a food must have a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million. People with celiac disease, in which gluten can be irritating, are able to tolerate this small amount. Gluten is not harmful to people without celiac disease. Just because something is gluten-free, doesn’t make it a healthier choice.

Low-Fat: Generally, a food can be considered low-fat if it has three grams or less of fat per 100 calories. This means that 30 percent or less of the total calories are from fat. However, the low-fat label does not address the total calories in the food. Low-fat foods may be high in calories from sugar.

Heart-Healthy: To be labeled as heart-healthy, a food must meet requirements set by the American Heart Association regarding the amount of fat, cholesterol and sodium per serving. The food must also contain 10 percent or more of the daily value of one of six key nutrients. Look for the Heart-Check Mark that says American Heart Association certified.

Multigrain: A multigrain label indicates that a food contains more than one type of grain. It is not the same as whole grain, which means that all parts of the grain kernel (the bran, germ and endosperm) are used. For a true whole grain product, check the ingredient label for the word “whole” before the grain. Also check the fiber content. Whole grains have more fiber than processed grains. Aim for two to three grams fiber per slice.

Clean: This ambiguous term has no set definition. Many people believe “clean” refers to plant-based and/or unprocessed foods, but as a food claim, it’s meaningless and may result in consumers choosing products that are more trendy than healthy.

Local: What is a “local” food? There is no definitive answer because it’s a matter of opinion. Some consumers think “local” means the food was raised or produced within 50 miles of their place of sale, while others consider foods sourced within a 100-mile radius to be local. Local foods may be trendy and even preferred, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthier than traditional options.

No Sugar Added: This claim does not mean the product doesn’t have carbohydrates, nor does it mean it has fewer calories. In fact, products making this claim can still have sweeteners, whether artificial (like sucralose) or caloric (like fruit juice concentrates or honey). The only way to know for sure is to read the ingredient list. Keep in mind that there are dozens of different names for sugar.

Made with real fruit: This is probably true, but the amount of “real fruit” may be tiny. And it may not be the fruit shown on the package. Often inexpensive pear or apple concentrates are the “real fruit” being referred to. Remember all ingredients must be disclosed, but the percentage does not.

High-fiber: Foods with this claim are often boosted with a processed form of fiber, such as chicory root, oat fiber or polydextrose. These fibers don’t necessarily have the same impact as naturally occurring fiber and frequently cause excess bloating and gas. Better to stick with unprocessed foods with natural fiber, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Light: This term can refer to lower calories, fat or sodium. Fat and sodium must be at least 50 percent less than the original product and calories must be at least one-third-less to meet the requirements of this term. But to confuse matters, “light” is sometimes used to denote a lighter color, texture or flavor. Light does not automatically mean healthier. Sometimes “light” foods contain more of another ingredient that is not a healthy choice. Compare the nutrition facts label and ingredient lists of the original food with the light version to see what is different in the products.

Don’t be fooled by these front-of-the-box claims. Turning the product over to examine the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list is the only way to know for sure whether a food is healthy.

Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.