Understanding Labels and Health Claims
At home, you can eat only what is available. For your weight management program to be successful, you must master the art of low-fat shopping. If what you have in your refrigerator and cupboards is junk food, chances are you’ll eat that in place of healthy, low-fat foods that satisfy and provide energy.
This feature article is in two parts, use the arrows below to navigate each section.
Before you head to the store, you should have a clear understanding of how to read labels so you can make the healthiest, wisest choices of foods you will enjoy. The following are key words for properly understanding food product labels:
- Serving size: The amount of food the information refers to.
- Servings per container: The number of servings in the entire product or package.
- Percent daily values: Shows how a food fits into an overall daily diet based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories.
- Calories: The total number of calories in one serving of this food.
- Calories from fat: The total number of calories from fat in one serving of this food.
- Total fat: The weight of fat (in grams) in one serving of this food.
- Saturated fat: The weight of saturated fat (in grams) in one serving of this food.
- Sodium: The weight of sodium (in milligrams) in one serving of this food.
- Protein: The weight of protein (in grams) in one serving of this food.
- Total carbohydrates: The weight of both complex and simple carbohydrates (in grams) in one serving of this food.
- Sugars: The weight of simple carbohydrates (in grams) in one serving of this food; to find out how many complex carbohydrates are in the food simply subtract sugars from total carbohydrates.
After you have a clear understanding of the key label words, there are five other important values you will want to consider before concluding that the food product is a healthy, low-fat food.
1. Check the List of Ingredients :
Ingredients are listed in descending order according to their quantity in that food. The first three or four ingredients listed usually make up most of the product. Keep in mind, however, that fat and sugar come in many different forms; even if they are not one of the first three ingredients, the food can still be very high in fat and/or sugar. Other “names” of fat include hydrogenated vegetable shortening, butter, margarine, oil (coconut, safflower, palm, etc.), lecithin, lard, and cream solids.
Other names of sugars include fructose, honey, corn sweeteners, molasses, maltose, corn syrup, fructose, galactose, glucose, and dextrose. If only one of these names appears among the first few ingredients on the label, or if several of them are listed throughout the label, this food is likely to be high in fat or sugar.