Claims and Labels

January 13, 2011

Nutrition Facts on packaged goods are tricky and often avoided or misinterpreted.

I tend to focus on the list of ingredients when I’m buying packaged foods.

*Ingredients are listed in the order of amount of each ingredient by weight, with the greatest amount of an ingredient listed first.

A majority of the foods I buy (like fresh fruits & vegetables, bulk food items such as whole grains, beans, etc.) do not have a nutrition label.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have a nutritional profile, but it is what it is.  An apple.  A banana.  An avocado.  A potato.  A broccoli stalk.  No added ingredients.

I was inspired by Matt’s post at The Kitchen of a Runner, because it brought about a good conversation after linking to this article about food labeling, which offers tips about the claims on packaged foods.

Besides the Nutrition Facts panel on the package, there are Nutrient Content Claims.

Nutrient Content Claims are “used on food labels to help consumers who don’t want to scrutinize the Nutrition Facts panel, get an idea of the food’s nutritional profile.  These claims must adhere to specific definitions set forth by the FDA.”

Examples:

  • Calorie free = less than 5 calories per serving
  • Low calorie = no more than 40 calories per serving
  • Fat free = less than .5g of fat per serving
  • Low fat = 3 grams of fat or less per serving
  • Low in Sodium = 140mg or less of sodium per serving
  • High, Rich in, Excellent source of = contains 20% of more of the daily value for a particular nutrient

The list goes on and on.

The tricky part: If these Nutrient Content Claims are supposed to be for people who don’t read the Nutrition Facts panel, then those people don’t know anything about the serving size to begin with.  I doubt there are many consumers who will stand in the aisle at the store with a calculator for a quick math lesson on percentages.

My friend, Kristina, posted an updated list of ingredients that Whole Foods markets deemed unacceptable and will not carry any products that contain these ingredients.

I’m not suggesting you shop solely at Whole Foods, but familiarize yourself with the ingredient lists on your packaged foods.  If you can’t pronounce it or it looks like

  • dimethylpolysiloxane
  • microparticularized whey protein derived fat substitute
  • dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DSS)
  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)

    Then it’s not REAL food and your body won’t recognize or digest it as such.

    Any questions?

    Do you read nutrition labels?

    Do you check the list of ingredients on packaged goods before you buy them?

    Billy and I are driving to Austin today.  What’s your favorite road trip or travel snack?

    Some common things we bring: apples, almonds and Larabars.

    ~Bird

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