How To Understand Food Labels - How To Read Food Labels
Have you ever gotten confused by the information on the food labels on the food you buy to eat? Especially when you are trying to cut calories, fat, and carbohydrates.
Do you read the labels on the food you buy? If you don't, it is time to educate yourself and start reading the labels of foods you buy for yourself and your family. What are those food labels really saying? A food label is like a recipe - It tells you what's in the food you eat. Don't you want to know what you're putting into your body? In order to plan a healthy diet, you must know how to read a food label.
This article will help you make quick,
informed choices that that can help contribute to healthy eating through
more informed label reading.
The FDA also regulates the use of certain words or phrases on food packaging. Before May 8, 1994, a food product claiming to be "light" could just be light in color, texture or taste. But now such creative, and often misleading, labeling jargon is regulated. Terms used on the new food labels must adhere to the following FDA definitions:
Light - Means that the food has half the fat, one-third the calories or half the salt of its regular counterpart. It can still be used to describe other properties like color or texture as long as the label makes the distinction clear (for example, "light brown sugar" or "light and fluffy").
Fat-Free or Sugar-Free - Indicates that none of the substance cited (or only a negligible amount) is in the product. For instance, a calorie-free product must have fewer than five calories per serving, while fat-free and cholesterol-free foods should have less than half a gram per serving. Related words, such as "without," "no" and "zero," must meet the same standards. For example, suppose a food is labeled 95 percent "fat-free." This means that five percent of the total weight of the food is fat, (which may not seem like much), yet a single gram of fat contains nine calories compared to four calories in a gram of protein or carbohydrates.
Fresh - Means unprocessed, uncooked, unfrozen (for example, fresh or freshly-squeezed orange juice). Washing and coating of fruits and vegetables are allowed. If a food has been quickly frozen, it can be described as fresh-frozen, which is commonly done with fresh fish.
Healthy - Means the food may contain no more than 3 grams of fat (including one gram of saturated fat) and 60 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.
High - As in high-fiber, means the product has 20 percent or more of the daily value for the nutrient cited.
Good Source - Indicates that one serving of the food contains 10 to 19 percent of the daily value for a particular nutrient.
Lean - Can be used to describe the fat content of meat, poultry and seafood. To be called "lean," a serving of the product must have less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol. "Extra lean" has also been defined to mean less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
Less and fewer - Can be used to describe foods that have a nutrient or calorie content which is reduced by at least 25 percent.
Low Fat - May be used on products that do not exceed the dietary guidelines for fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium or calories. The criteria they must meet are:
Natural flavors - The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act defines "natural flavors" as: "the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating, or enzymolysis, which contains a flavoring constituent derived from a spice, fruit, fruit juice, vegetable, vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf, or similar plant material; meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. This broad definition simply means that "natural flavors" are extracts from these non-synthetic foods.
Reduced - Means that a nutritionally altered product contains at least 25
percent less of a nutrient or of calories than the regular product.
First, the Federal Food and Drug Act allowed the federal
government to regulate the safety and quality of food. By 1924, the FDA no
longer allowed untrue health claims and statements on food labels that might
mislead people. After that, the net weight of the food produced and names and
addresses of the food manufacturer or distributor had to be printed on labels as
well. Ingredient lists also became common on labels.