Hidden Truths About Food Labeling

Hidden facts about food labeling written on green background between abstract colored blocks
What do these terms really mean?

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
How much is an actual serving?

You may 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.

These serving size schemes lead you to believe they contain fewer calories or less sugar.

For the truth, multiply the label serving size by the number of servings you consumed.

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

Ingredients labels list product ingredients by quantity — from highest to lowest amount.

A product is considered unhealthy if the first three ingredients include refined grains, any type of sugar, or hydrogenated oils.

Choose items that list whole foods in the first three ingredients.

Lastly, an ingredients list longer than two to three lines reveals a highly processed product.

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

Multigrain — just contains more than one type of grain, which may be refined grains
Natural — simply means at some point manufacturer used a natural source such as apples or rice
Organic —doesn’t mean healthy, for instance, organic sugar is still sugar
Fat-Free and Low-Fat— is made with extra sugar or sodium to make it taste better
Light — reduced calories or fat, may mean watered down
No added sugar — beware, sugar substitutes may have been added
Low-carb— can be processed junk foods, similar to processed low-fat foods
Made with whole grains— if whole grains aren’t listed in the first three ingredients, the amount isn’t enough to be classified as healthy
Fortified or enriched—merely means some nutrients have been added
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 chemicals intended to taste like fruit

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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