Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Words: Label Reading

Label Reading

As you probably have noticed, I would encourage you to buy and eat mostly foods that DON'T contain food labels - fresh fruits and fresh veggies. But there will of course be items that do have labels. I just wanted to look at a few terms found on food packaging labels, but there are many, many, many terms.

And, boy howdy, can they be sneaky!

Did you know that "fat free" doesn't really mean fat free? And that "calorie free" doesn't mean there are zero calories?

Ahhh, and the fun begins!

So, here's the top two tricky lingo you may see on a package, and what it can legally mean.

Calorie Free: Less than 5 calories per serving

Fat Free: Less than 0.5g of fat per serving

Yup, on labeling, they are allowed to simply round number down.

Another trick with fat free - it SO does not mean "calorie free"! If there's less fat, chances are the flavor is being made up with extra sugar and/or salt. Just because a cookie is "fat free" or "diet" doesn't mean it's helpful towards your weight goals - and by no means will it guarantee natural and healthy! Chances are, it's a highly-processed nutrient-depleted, love-it-for-a-moment-feel-guilty-later hunk of immediate gratification that does not lend itself towards natural, healthy, beautifying goodness. Better than an even more yucky option? Maybe. Worth it for the moment if you truly enjoy it and won't feel guilty later? Possibly. But that's your call.

Fun stuff, eh? ;-)

When working at a weight-loss retreat, the best examples of this were seen with a spray butter, and artificial sweeteners, both that claimed "fat free, calorie free." One poor woman would douse her potatoes, salads, vegetables... with the "fat free, calorie free" butter spray, assuming that would be conducive to her diet plans. The catch? She was going through about 1 bottle a week, which - despite misleading labeling - contained something like a whopping 200g fat, and over 1000 calories!

Little packets of sweeteners can be the same. Nutrasweet, Splenda, Equal, etc - debates on being potential carcinogens aside - all tend to average 4 calories per packet. So, legally, they can claim to be "calorie free." One woman liked to sweeten her daily yogurt with 3 packs, her cottage cheese with 2 packs, her coffees with 4+ each, her pineapple with 3 packs... In a day, she said she was adding well over 20 packs per day. So, from "calories free" items, she was adding almost 100 calories PER DAY from "calorie free" foods. Perhaps you feel 100 calories isn't that big a deal, but when you're basing your weight goals on counting calories, that extra 100 per day can add up to an additional pound per month that you aren't losing as you expected!

So, be label savvy, and also label minimizing - go for the good stuff! The natural, healthy, healing, vibrant stuff that doesn't need all the confusing jargon anyways!


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