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.”


  • 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.


    { 22 comments… read them below or add one }

    Stephanie January 13, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Great post!

    I tend to shop the outer perimeter of our grocery store so don’t have a need for too much nutrition label reading. When I do need to buy something with labels, our grocer has the handy dandy Nu-Val score which helps make the best decision (comparing applesauces to applesauces for instance)

    Favorite road trip snack: Larabars, pb/banana sandwiches & trail mix we make ourselves.
    Stephanie recently posted..Sushi &amp Bowling


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Nu-Val is a great resource! And I love making my own trail mix, too. I always end up eating around certain things in the pre-made ones. :)


    Kristina @ spabettie January 13, 2011 at 11:20 am

    great post, Dorry! I don’t want to eat anything I cannot pronounce. I’d say the majority of what goes in my cart falls under the unlabeled – as you say, It Is What It Is!! :)
    Kristina @ spabettie recently posted..juiced salad


    lindsay January 13, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I love the standards that whole foods imply with their foods. I feel so “safe” shopping there. I’ll spend more for that reason. To me, less is more. Meaning the less ingredients it has, the more nutrient it is! :)


    CathyK January 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    safe travels, dorry!
    i DO read nutrition labels and look for short lists of ingredients. lately i have been focussing on sodium content…unfortunately, super high in even organic soups, some cereals, etc. don’t have to worry about that if you make “nature’s candy,” – fruits and vegetables – a priority!
    great post!
    CathyK recently posted..Old Friend- “Blend” Friend- TV “Friend-” Sense a Trend


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I agree about the sodium levels – some are so high, it’s startling!

    “Nature’s Candy” – so true! I love my fruits and veggies. :)


    Caree @ Fit-Mama January 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I am starting to read labels more now because of things we are trying to eliminate from my son’s diet. And I wish I could afford to shop solely at whole foods!!!

    Safe travels to austin!
    Caree @ Fit-Mama recently posted..Want to know more about Fit Mama Read below!


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I wish I could afford to shop solely at Whole Foods, too! So much I’ve contemplated applying for a job there. They must get a discount, right? :)


    Val @ Balancing Val January 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Once upon a time, I only read calories or macros on a package.

    I’m happy to say that these days it’s only ingredients!

    I try to buy items that don’t need to have ingredient lists like fruit, veggies, grains and beans :)
    Val @ Balancing Val recently posted..Balancing Money–Pack Yo’ Snack!


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Once upon a time…me, too! Glad we changed our ways to concentrating on eating nourishing whole foods rather than worrying so much about calories. :)


    Heather @ Dietitian on the Run January 13, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Very informative in a consumer-language kind of way – nice post, girl! :) I also read ingredient lists and try hard to educate people on focusing their energy on WHAT they’re eating before they try to calculate how much. It’s just as important to know what you’re trying to suggest your body digests, before you suggest it starts to process off of calorie/fat/sugar free substances.
    Heather @ Dietitian on the Run recently posted..Good Conversations &amp Goal Coaching


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks Heather! Sometimes when I’m blogging, I think about my mom reading the post and what would help her out. :)

    Reply January 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Have fun on your drive. LOVE to munch on pretzels, apples, grapes and of course a little bit of candy:)
    LOVED this post. I always leave your blog feeling smarter, refreshed and just happy:) You have inspired me to start reading the ingredients rather than just focusing on the other stuff. Hope you are having a great day and have fun!! recently posted..Runners High and Broccoli Binge


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    You are so sweet! This comment made my day. I get so excited when your new posts show up in my google reader. :)

    Billy and I are both huge pretzel fans!


    Allison @ Happy Tales January 13, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Yes yes yes! This is exactly the way I think, and the message I try to spread. Loooove that I have found so many people in the blog world who feel the same way that i do…


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Yay! I agree it’s so nice to see other people sharing the same sentiments and spreading a good message. Thanks for the comment. :)


    JenATX January 13, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Dorry please let me know next time you come to Austin! I’m actually driving up to Fort Worth tomorrow so I hope you have a good time in Austin :) Maybe we will pass each other on I 35 haha
    And no I don’t read the nutrition labels because I don’t really know how :-/ I -do- read the ingredient list though to make sure the things you pointed out aren’t hiding in my food


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I will definitely let you know! As of now, I think we’ll be back the weekend of February 18th. Enjoy your 3-day weekend in Ft. Worth and be safe driving!


    Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine January 14, 2011 at 6:46 am

    I always read the ingredients, then give the calories, fat, carbs and such a quick look if the ingredients are good. Even if it’s a natural sweetener like agave, for instance, I’m not gong to buy it if there’s 20 grams of sugar in a serving!! I think the ingredients are the most important part, but things like calories and macros can be a really good tool for certain health goals as well.
    Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine recently posted..Orlando- Blogger Style


    dorrybird January 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Completely agree – the nutrition facts can be crucial for certain health goals – weight gain or weight loss, etc. I check out the sugars and sodium, too! Too much sodium is my kryptonite!


    Missy Miller January 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I barely ever read the FDA label and skip straight to the ingredients. Since I don’t do sugar, it’s so funny to me how I will say to my mom…”That’s packed with sugar” about…for example maybe a mustard? She will immedietly go to the label and say “Less than 1 gram of sugar and zero carbs” yet the second ingredient is HFCS or something. I wish more people ignored the labels and just ate real food!!!!
    Missy Miller recently posted..Seven Minutes In Heaven


    dorrybird January 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Hopefully, with the growing focus on nutrition and number of Registered Dietitians and readily available information through the internet, more people are learning the importance of eating REAL food! It’s so important for overall health and disease prevention…


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