Nutrition Labels In Terms of HEALTH: What Do They Really Mean?

Nutrition Labels

Nutrition Labels In Terms of HEALTH: What Do They Really Mean?

Nutrition Labels In Terms of HEALTH: What Do They Really Mean?

What do you think are some of the most common mistakes people make when reading food nutrition labels?

Nutrition labels have been on food for years but from time to time products change their packaging to highlight some new benefit. Is this because they have changed what is in the product or is it simply because it is believed to currently the best way to market it the product. Knowing how to read nutrition labels on the back will save you from being talked into buying products for the wrong reasons.

Food Labels

Some of the most common mistakes people make when they are reading nutrition labels are that they:

* Trust claims such as “low fat” and “sugar free“will be healthier for them.

Marketing on food labels like to tell us what our food does not contain – fat, sugar, gluten, etc. This allows the producer to trick consumers into thinking that if the product does not contain a certain “bad” ingredient, it is healthy. Most processed foods may be fat-free or sugar-free, but they are loaded with preservatives or refined ingredients to make up for it!

*  Another common mistake people make is that when they read the words “reduced fat”, on a food label, they think that the product is healthier. 

However, “reduced fat” only indicates that the product contains 25 percent less fat than the original version. This does not, necessarily, mean that the product is low in fat at all -only lower in fat compared to the original product, which was very unhealthy to begin with!

Let’s face it, it is difficult to read and interpret nutrition information displayed on food packages these days. When reading nutrition labels, one thing most of us don’t realize is that serving sizes need to be converted to realistic portion sizes. Then, when we do learn how to do this, who has the time to do that for all of the food they eat?

So how can we follow diets accurately and shop for the right foods?

 Great News!

Food Labels

Under the Nutrition Labeling Act that the FDA in proposed in 1990, serving sizes were claimed to reflect accurate consumption patterns. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic proposition. Therefore, in March of 2014, the FDA issued the following updates to the Act:

1) More information about nutrition science including; added sugar, daily values for nutrients like sodium, fiber, and vitamin D, must be added to labels.

2) Information must be provided about vitamin D and potassium content, and the removal of calories from fat.

3) Updated serving sizes will reflect realistic consumption patterns and a “dual column” for products in larger packages that contain 2 servings for consumption of the entire package (2 servings as opposed to half the container).

Even further, in July of 2015, the FDA issued a supplemental proposed rule that would require declaration of the percent daily value (%DV) for added sugars, and change the current footnote on the Nutrition Facts label. These minor improvements in food regulations have allowed us to be more conscientious about our labels before buying or eating a new food product.

These updates on nutrition label regulations are helping us all to make advancements on our journeys of health and wellness. Also, as a nutritionist, I am now better able to advise people on how to shop in the grocery store and consume appropriate amounts of food!

When it comes to deciphering between so-called healthier products and the original versions of them, try to read the ingredients lists and food labels to make sure that you are choosing foods that are as close to natural as possible. Regardless of whether or not a food label claims to be healthier by being “reduced fat” or “sugar free,” if you do not know what many of the ingredients are in a product that you are about to eat, or cannot even pronounce the ingredients, it probably isn’t healthy for you.

Be smart next time you are at the grocery store! Want to know more about nutrition labeling and healthy grocery shopping tips? Check out our Grocery Shopping Tips blog!

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About the Author
Anna Baker

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