Food Labels can be our friends if we know how they communicate.

Back in 1994 the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act made many changes regarding food labeling.  They did this to encourage people to make better choices in the foods that they ate.  Now, all food items must be labeled with specific information that can help us in our journey to be healthier. There are, however, still some areas that we may not understand and that may be a bit vague or misleading. 

When purchasing food, we should always pay attention to the label on the back of the product as it gives us a much more complete and accurate picture of how healthy or not healthy a food is.  Pay close attention to the serving size and how many servings there are in the container as this is one area manufacturers can get a bit creative in to be able to make you think something is healthier than it really is.  The next few items should be examined as well.  Look at the number of calories and how many calories are from fat making sure that most of the calories are not from fat.  Our goal should be less than 5% of the daily value for fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.  If the total calories from fat is less than .5g per serving or if the food has less than 2mg of cholesterol per serving these items can be deleted from the food label as long as there are no claims about fat, cholesterol, or fatty acids.  The label can read “0 trans fats” if there are less than .5g of trans fats per serving.  Now you can see why it is so important to pay attention to the serving size.  Many serving sizes are what we would consider a small portion of what we actually serve ourselves.  If you were to look at a more regular serving size, some of the claims on the label would no longer be correct.  On the other side it is also important that we try to have more than 20% for fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C as these are all good for us. 

Sugars can be confusing as well.  We need to try to stay away from “added sugars”.  There are sugars that naturally occur in foods that are good for us, but when manufacturers start adding sugars, we need to be concerned.  So how do you recognize if sugar has been added?  Look for items such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, honey, maple syrup, and fruit concentrate.  Also remember that ingredients are listed from the most to the least by weight so if one of these items are near the beginning of the list, it is packed with added sugar.   On the label total sugar can actually be deleted if the item contains less than 1 gram of sugar per serving and makes no claims about sugars, sweeteners, or sugar alcohol content.  Again, pay attention to those serving sizes.

Have you ever looked at a product in the store and is said “good source” or “light”or “fat free” or maybe “low in sodium” or “high fiber”?  What do all of these things really mean though?  Well if something says it is a “good source” it must have  10-19% of the daily value for that item.  If a manufacturer claims something is “light”, it must contain 50% less than another brand or the regular version of the same food by that same manufacturer.  “Fat free” is another one of those misleading facts based on serving size; for an item to be labeled “fat free” it must contain less than .5g of fat per serving and have no added oil or fat..  “Low in sodium” again only means there is less than 140mg of sodium per serving.  Finally relating to serving size once again, a manufacturer can say their item is “high fiber” as long as it contains at least 5g of fiber per serving.   Trying to eat healthy and know what you are truly putting into your body can be very confusing.

There are even more phrases that can confuse us if we do not completely understand them.  What is the difference between something that is “low fat” and “low calories”?  Well, “low fat” means that the item has less than 3g per serving.  “Low calories” means the item has less than 40 calories per serving.  What about claims of “low calorie”, “calorie-free”, and “reduced-calorie”?  As stated “low calorie” refers to less than 40 calories per serving.  “Calorie-free” means there are fewer than 5 calories per serving.  And “reduced-calorie” means the item has at least 25% few calories than another food item per serving.

We should all be focused on living our lives as healthy as possible.  God has given us our bodies and our bodies are the temple for the Holy Spirit so we should be doing all we can to protect, nourish, and keep it running in tip top shape.  Being aware of the details of what we are actually eating and drinking as well as making sure our bodies get the best physical activity they can, will prove not only to help us be healthier, but also to live happier, longer, and more enjoyable lives.  There is no better time to make lifestyle changes than the present.  Pay attention to label, especially pertaining to serving size and get active.  Let Acworth CKD help you to achieve these lifestyle goals!


Information from:

Nutrition Made Clear

By: Professor Roberta H. Anding

“Demystifying Food Labels”