One of the most important habits to develop when it comes to making great food choices is reading food labels.
Like most of our habits, reading food labels is a skill that takes much practice.
Many manufacturers do whatever they can to hide, obfuscate, and maybe even mislead (within the confines of the law of course) what you are really eating.
Here’s some examples:
Some fat-free labeled foods may be 50%, 60%, or in some cases 100% fat and they say “fat-free” on the label!
A can of “fat-free” cooking spray. It usually says on the front of the container, “for calorie free and fat free cooking.” If you turn the can around and examine the FDA regulated nutrition label, you’d find that there are zero calories per serving, zero calories from fat. The question becomes, if there aren’t any calories . . . what in the world is in that can? That’s when you look at that tiny print on the ingredients panel. You’ll find that the only significant ingredient in that can is vegetable oil, corn oil, or canola oil, foods that get 100% of their calories from fat! Yes, the fat free cooking spray is 100% fat!
HERE’S HOW – . The law says, “if there’s less than half a gram (.5 g) of fat in a serving (remember those words, “in a serving”) a food can be labeled fat free. The catch is, nobody regulates what the food companies refer to as a serving size.
If you go back to the tiny print on that spray can, you’ll find that a serving is equal to two-tenths (2/10) of a gram. Is there less than half a gram of fat in a serving? Of course. There’s less than half a gram of anything in a serving that’s .2 grams in its entirety. This loophole allows the cooking sprays, pure fat, to be labeled fat free.
The same is true of the fat free butter spreads, the fat free butter substitutes, and the fat free liquid butter for popcorn.
Is less than 0.5g of fat gonna kill you? No, but you need to be aware this stuff goes on all the time. (And who uses 1 serving size most of the time anyway?)
SUGAR by Any Other Name
Some foods don’t use the word “sugar” even though they have as much sugar as a chocolate chip cookie. They fail to include the actual word sugar on the ingredient list but instead USE glucose, fructose, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, dextrose, etc. – which are all names for, you guessed it. Sugar.
Then there are the sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, malitol, and glycerol which by law do not have to be listed as sugars on the nutrient panel. A snack bar might say “Sugar Free” and list glycerol (or glycerine) on its ingredient panel. Sugar alcohols do affect blood sugar and can spike insulin levels limiting fat release and leading to greater accumulation of bodyfat.
There is also a difference between the “Nutrition Fact” label and the “Ingredient List”
For instance a product could have “sugars” in the nutrition label but no sugar in the ingredient list. This would indicate there is no added sugar to the product. This is a best case scenario, but you don’t want to crazy on any sugars, natural or not.
Of course as mentioned above, you have to watch out, because “organic cane juice” is a little more obtuse than putting “organic white sugar” on the label.
So before you put that item in your cart, turn it around and look at the label.
Yes at first it will take some time, but it’s not like you will have to do it for the same item next time you shop.
How many items do you purchase in the typical grocery shopping day?
Some you won’t have to worry about at all – fruits and veggies don’t have labels at all, and I am pretty sure you can figure out that double fudge chocolate swirled cake bites don’t belong in the cart – no matter what’s on that label.
So sharpen you label reading skills – your body will love you for it!