Cut Fat! Learn To Read Nutrition Labels
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Do labels like fat free, low fat,
reduced fat, light, more, less, high and low make your head spin like a top as
you toss food into your shopping cart? What does it all mean? Which is best? I
thought people were confused by how to exercise until I started investigating
food labeling. Since we are left to decipher all of these nutrition labels,
its no wonder Americans are obese.
You're certainly not alone if you're
confused. The FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA issued
new regulations on food labels to help consumers make wiser choices and to
offer an incentive for food companies to improve the nutritional qualities of
their products. Food manufacturers are now required to strictly adhere to
regulations about what can and can't be printed on food labels.
It's time to educate yourself! The
following new food labeling terms describe the level of a nutrient in food:
Free: A product contains no
amount of, or only a trivial amount of, one of the following compounds: fat,
saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars and calories. You may also see free
foods labeled "without," "no" and "zero." These are synonyms for "free."
Calorie-Free -- fewer than 5
calories per serving
Sugar-Free -- less than .5
grams per serving
Fat-Free -- less than .5 grams
Choosing "free" foods can be
healthful and contribute to a calorie deficit at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, "free" many times means taste-free as well. We all know that fat
tastes good, and when an item is fat-free it can also be flavor-free.
Low: Foods that can be eaten
frequently without exceeding dietary guidelines for one or more of these
components: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories. Synonyms for
low include "little," "few" and "low source of." The following describe what is
considered "low" for each component.
Low fat -- 3 grams or less per
Low saturated fat -- 1 gram or
less per serving
Low sodium -- 140 milligrams
or less per serving
Very low sodium -- 35
milligrams or less per serving
Low cholesterol -- 20
milligrams or less and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving
Low calorie -- 40 calories or
less per serving
Low foods are healthful
and help keep calories down.
Lean and Extra Lean: These
terms can be used to describe the fat content of meat, poultry, seafood and
Lean -- less than 10 grams of
fat, 4.5 or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol
per serving and per 100 grams
Extra Lean -- less than 5
grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams
cholesterol per serving and per 100 grams
You should strive to select lean
meats compared to higher fat cuts. It may take your taste buds a little
adjusting, but its better for your health and will help keep calories
High: This term can be used if
the food contains 20 percent or more of the daily value for a particular
nutrient in a serving.
Good Source: These terms mean
that one serving of a food contains 10-19 percent of the Daily Value for a
particular nutrient. For example, orange juice containers may say "good source
of Vitamin C."
Reduced: This term means that
a nutritionally altered product contains at least 25 percent less of a nutrient
or calories as compared to the regular or reference product. However, a reduced
claim cant be made in a product if its reference food already meets the
requirement for a low claim.
Less: This term means that a
food, whether altered or not, contains 25 percent less of a nutrient or
calories as compared to the reference food. For example, pretzels that have 25
percent less fat than potato chips. Fewer is an acceptable synonym for
Light: This descriptor can
mean two things. A nutritionally altered product contains 1/3 fewer calories or
1/2 the fat of the reference food. If the food derives 50 percent or more of
the calories from fat, the reduction must be 50 percent of the fat.
Second, the sodium content of a
low-calorie, low-fat food has been reduced by 50 percent. The term light can
still be used to describe properties such as texture and color as long as the
label explains the intent. For example, light brown sugar.
More: A serving of food
contains a nutrient that is at least 10 percent more of the Daily Value than
the reference food.
Percent Fat-Free: A product
bearing this claim must be a low-fat or fat-free product. The claim must
accurately represent the amount of fat present in 100 grams of the food. So, if
the box of cookies you are picking up says 95 percent fat-free, it must contain
5 grams of fat per 100 grams.