Food Label Foolery
By bovinity on 2008-11-27 12:37:25
In order to capture the attention of health-conscious consumers, many manufacturers have resorted to what can only be called label trickery.
Package front labels that boldly identify a product as “heart healthy”, “low fat”, “enriched” or “light” can be very confusing for consumers who are trying to make healthy food choices for their families.
Although the FDA regulates the nutrition label on the back of a product, manufacturer’s can say basically anything they want on the front label.
In fact, when you look at the FDA regulated nutrition facts on the back you might wonder if the two labels even belong on the same product.
According to Kerry McLeod, author of “The Last Diet Book Standing,” consumers should speed-read the front label and then go straight to the nutrition facts. She offers the following phrases as “red flags” to consumers:
Fortified, enriched, added, extra and plus. This means nutrients such as minerals and fiber have been removed and vitamins were added in processing. Look for 100% whole-wheat bread and high-fiber, low-sugar cereals.
Fruit drink. This means there’s probably little or no real fruit and a lot of sugar. Look for products that say 100% fruit juice.
Made with wheat, rye or multigrains. These products probably have very little whole grain. Look for the word “whole” before the grain to ensure that you are purchasing a 100% whole-grain product.
Natural. The manufacturer started out with a natural source, but once it’s processed the food may not resemble anything natural. Look for “100% All Natural” and “No Preservatives.”
Organically grown, pesticide free or no artificial ingredients. Look for labels that say “Certified Organically Grown.”
Read all of the ingredients on the nutrition label, especially if you have food allergies.
Ingredients are listed in the order of how much is in the product from most to least.
Beware of hidden sugars in the form of syrup, fructose and sucrose combinations. Any ingredient that includes “chloride” is most likely some form of salt, so if you are trying to reduce your salt intake, stay away from those products.
Be sure to check the calories and fat per serving size. Also, be sure you clearly understand how much is included in a “serving size” because it is usually smaller than you think it is. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories as well as the nutrients.
Make your calories count. Look at the calories on the label and compare them with what nutrients you are getting to decide if a food is a good choice.
In order to call itself “healthy,” the FDA requires a food must be low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
If it is a single item food it must provide at least 10 percent or more of the daily value of Vitamins A or C, iron, calcium, protein or fiber.
So the next time you go shopping for food, don’t be taken in by misleading claims on the front label. Read the nutrition label to be sure you are getting the healthiest food choices.