Food Labels – How To Keep Your Facts Straight

Get the Facts on Food Labels

There is a lot of press right now about food labeling and advertising. It can be overwhelming and confusing, to say the least. But, if you want to eat healthier it is critical to become a smart shopper by reading food labels to find out more about the foods you eat. The Nutrition Facts panel found on most food labels will help you:

1. Start with the Serving Size

• Look  for both the serving size (the amount for one serving), and the number of servings in the package.

• Remember to check your portion size to the serving size listed on the label. If the label serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.

2. Check Out the Total Calories and Fat

Find out how many calories are in a single serving and the number of calories from fat. It’s smart to cut back on calories and fat if you are watching your weight!

3. Let the Percent Daily Values Be Your Guide

Use percent Daily Values (DV) to help you evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan:

• Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5% DV means 5% of the amount of fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day would eat.

• Remember: percent DV are for the entire day — not just for one meal or snack.

• You may need more or less than 2,000 calories per day. For some nutrients you may need more or less than 100% DV.

4. The High and Low of Daily Values

• 5 percent or less is low — try to aim low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium

• 20 percent or more is high — try to aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber

5. Check the Ingredient List and then check it again

Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. Effective January 2006,manufacturers are required to clearly state if food products contain any ingredients that contain protein derived from the eight major allergenic foods. These foods are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

6. What Health Claims on Food Labels Really Mean

FDA has strict guidelines on how certain food label terms can be used. Some of the most common claims seen on food packages:

• Low calorie — Less than 40 calories per serving.

• Low cholesterol — Less than 20 mg of cholesterol and 2 gm or less of saturated fat per serving.

• Reduced — 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product.

• Good source of — Provides at least 10% of the DV of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving.

• Calorie free — Less than 5 calories per serving.

• Fat free / sugar free — Less than 1/2 gram of fat or sugar per serving.

• Low sodium — Less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

• High in — Provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving.

• High fiber — 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

New food labels may be arriving soon. Here are two links that describe the new and improved labels.

Does adding Vitamin C to cocaine make it healthy?

NO. Of Course Not!

Just like adding “whole grains” to Lucky Charms cereal does not make it healthy.

Just like adding omega 3’s toCountry Crock does not make it healthy.

Just like adding canola oil to popcorn or French fries does not make them healthy.

Companies often reformulate some of their product slightly so they can be considered “better for you”, but in essence they will still contain all the same crap as before. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lucky Charms and French fries, but they can’t be considered healthy or even close to it, even when I read that whole grains have been added or canola oil was used. If I eat Lucky Charms, it is on my cheat day. Same goes for French fries.

Often times we prefer convenience over quality. I am definitely guilty of this. When we are shopping for the pre-packaged or processed stuff, the labeling and marketing can be overwhelming, and even a bit deceiving. When you really need that convenience item, it is easier to justify when it says No Trans Fats, or Whole Grains, or Calcium Enriched, etc. When you really want a “snack” it is also easier to justify it when the label says enriched withOmega 3’s, Made from Whole Grains, etc.

Some people really believe that these additions like Whole Grains, Omega 3’s (or even subtractions like NO Trans Fats) make the food healthy. I know a few. So for those people, it is not your fault… you don’t know what you don’t know. You have been bamboozled by advertising. So I return to the analogy – Does adding vitamin C to cocaine make it healthy?

I am certainly not saying to never buy processed or pre-packaged foods. We can’t live without them (at least I can’t). So for those of you who are justifying, recognize that you are justifying, and don’t deny that you are making a poor food choice. For those of you who don’t know, now you do know. Pre-packaged or processed food is not healthy… even if the packaging makes you think it is.

Yes, there are of course companies like Odwalla, Morningstar, Health Valley, Boca, and my favorite is Kashi. These are the ones I look for when I need a pre-packaged choice.

As I was looking online for general nutritional info, I came across a blip that said Kashi owned by Kellog. This can’t be right, I thought. I must have misread it. I googled it and found that many of my favorites are owned by major, familiar corporations.

Here are a few examples of the “healthy, organic” industry structure.
• Heinz owns Hain, Breadshop, Arrowhead Mills, Garden of Eatin’, Farm Foods, Imagine Rice and Soy Dream, Casbah, Health Valley, DeBoles, Nile Spice, Celestial Seasonings, Westbrae, Westsoy, Little Bear, Walnut Acres, Shari Ann’s, Mountain Sun, Millina’s Finest, etc.
• Kraft owns Boca Foods and Back to Nature.
• Coca-Cola owns Odwalla.
• Pepsi owns Naked Juice.
• Hershey Foods owns Dagoba.
• M&M Mars owns Seeds of Change
• Kellog owns Kashi and Morningstar Farms
• General Mills owns Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen
• ConAgra owns Lightlife

I will still buy Kashi, Odwalla, Boca, and Morningstar when I need a specific item, but I am going to start reading the labels on these choices as carefully as I read the labels on the bagel bites I buy for the kids. Knowledge, no matter how disappointing the subject, is always a good thing.

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button