Hidden Truths About Food Labeling

Hidden facts about food labeling written on green background between abstract colored blocks

All the information you need about food is right on the label.
However, do you know the hidden truth in food labeling?

First, remember these terms apply per serving.

1. Low Calorie — Less than 40 calories or 1/3rd fewer calories than original 
2. Calorie-Free — Less than 5 calories
3. Low Cholesterol —20 mg of cholesterol and 2 gm of saturated fat
4. Zero Trans-Fat— less than 0.5 grams of trans-fat
5. Low Sodium —140 mg or less of sodium
6. Fat-Free/Sugar-Free — Less than ½ gram of fat or sugar
7. Reduced — 25% less nutrient or calories 
8. Good source of — provides at least 10% of the nutrient DV  
9. High in — Provides 20% or more of the DV

Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Understanding Food Marketing Terms for more information.  

Second, how much is a serving size?

Nutritional label on blue background with pink overlay and wording be aware of serving sizes

Don’t mistake a serving size as one cookie, an entire container of soda or a whole granola bar. A serving is usually only a portion of the item, not the whole thing.

Serving size “schemes” lead you to believe they contain fewer calories or less sugar.

Find the real calories, multiply the label serving size by the number of servings you consume.

The first three things in the ingredients list tell the secret.

  • Listed by quantity — from highest to lowest amount.
  • Unhealthy if first three ingredients include refined grains, sugar, or hydrogenated oils.
  • Healthy if whole foods in the first three ingredients.
  • Highly processed with a list longer than two to three lines.

These “healthy-sounding” labels don’t necessarily mean healthy.

Multigrain —more than one type of grain, maybe refined grains
Natural — manufacturer used a natural source such as apples or rice
Organicdoesn’t mean healthy, for example, organic sugar is still sugar
Fat-Free and Low-Fat—made with extra sugar or sodium for better taste 
Light — reduced calories or fat, and may be watered down
No added sugar — beware, may be sugar substitutes 
Low-carb— may be processed junk foods, like processed low-fat foods
Made with whole grains— not classified as healthy, if not listed in the first three ingredients
Fortified or enriched—merely means some added nutrients 
Gluten-free— doesn’t contain wheat, spelt, rye, or barley, but can be  highly processed with added fats and sugar
Fruit-flavored —may only contain fruit tasting chemicals 

Visit https://www.healthline.com/nutrition for more information.

A “Rose is a Rose” and “Sugar is Still Sugar”

Food manufacturers use unfamiliar terms to disguise the presence of sugar in their products.

A product may be loaded with sugar, but may not appear as one of the first three ingredients.

Don’t Be Fooled, Become familiar with the following names of sugar.

group of raw beets on green backgroundoverturned jar with brown sugar spilled outThree sticks of sugar cane on white backgroundhand holding brown bowl spilling white sugar on pink backgroundbrown sugar in white bowl with a spoon on blue backgroundhoney dripping from abrown wooden honey dipper into a bowl of honey

Types of sugar: beet, brown, buttered, cane, caster, coconut, date, golden, invert, muscovado, organic raw, evaporated cane juice, and confectioners.
Examples of syrup: carob, golden, high-fructose corn, honey, agave nectar, malt, maple, oat, rice bran, and rice.

To avoid added sugar, check the label for ingredients ending in “ose” (glucose, sucrose, dextrose) because these are all forms of sugar.

Adda Bjarnadottir, MS on February 27, 2019
Read more about this here. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-read-food-labels#bottom-line

Labeling as Natural

According to USDA guidelines, meat and poultry with no added coloring and minimal processing may be labeled as “Natural”.

Processed and Unprocessed

The USDA uses the “processed” label for food that has undergone a “change of character.” For example, raw nuts (unprocessed) vs. roasted nuts (processed); edamame (unprocessed) vs. tofu (processed); a head of lettuce (unprocessed) vs. cut, pre-washed lettuce (processed).

For further information read here. http://bit.ly/2Fa1uUp

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