The front of the cereal box declares in bold print: “A Good Source of Calcium & Vitamin D.” Sounds healthy, doesn’t it? But when you turn to the nutrition label on the side…
This “good source of calcium and vitamin D” also turns out to be a terrific source of sugar. In fact, four of the first six ingredients are sugars. A 3/4-cup serving – a typical cereal bowl holds more than 2 cups – packs in 10 grams of the sweet stuff.
The calcium and vitamin D are additives, and a serving only provides 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of each. In fact, the 1/2-cup of skim milk they suggest you pour on the cereal provides 50% more of both nutrients than the cereal itself.
What it boils down to is that the food you buy may not be as healthy as someone wants you to believe it is. So, today, I’d like to share with you a few tips on how to avoid label confusion.
Claims: Read Between the Lines
As Americans have grown more aware of what they eat, manufacturers have rushed to prove how their products are good for you. And the results can be misleading.
For example, a snack that offers 45% less fat sounds like a good choice, right? Maybe not. Because the snack that has this claim printed on its package is a candy bar. A candy bar with 260 calories and 40 grams of sugar per serving.
But, according to the manufacturer’s research, it has about 45% less fat than most other chocolate bars. So they market it as a healthier alternative.
A newer claim that can fool you is “0g Trans Fat.” Lots of products have labels with this claim. But even though these claims are usually true, that doesn’t mean it’s a low-fat product.
One frozen fish filet product that uses this claim actually contains 7 grams of fat – along with 13% of your DV of saturated fat – per serving. And a “serving” is one fillet. In my experience, most people eat at least two… so you’d have to double those numbers.
And that’s the problem with serving sizes. The “serving size” listed on some food packages is simply unrealistic.
Just What Is a Serving, Anyway?
Serving sizes can be confusing.
Take that “lower fat” candy bar I mentioned above. You have to read the fine print to discover that one candy bar is actually almost two full servings. So if you eat the whole bar – and who doesn’t? – you’re really getting about 500 calories and almost 80 grams of sugar. Ouch!
And servings aren’t always consistent. For example, a popular brand of cookie has 160 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving. But the “Chunky White Fudge” version of this cookie sounds like a much better choice: just 90 calories and 4.5 grams of fat per serving. Bring on the fudge, right?
Hardly. The serving size listed for the fudge variety is 17 g, while a serving of the regular variety is 32 g. In reality, the cookie that sounds healthier is actually worse for you.
So how do you work around all this label confusion?
Three Easy Ways to Avoid Being Fooled
The easiest way to limit label confusion is to stay away from packaged foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish are your best food choices. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients a food product has, the better it is for you.
Second, always read the serving size – and compare it to how many servings are in a package. A 20-oz bottle of cola, for example, contains 2-1/2 servings. So you’ll have to multiply the nutrition numbers by 2.5 when you drink the whole bottle.
Finally, raise a red flag any time you see a claim on the front of a package. Claims like “low-fat,” “sodium-free,” and “a good source of…” often serve as a smokescreen for other unhealthy ingredients.
In the end, it takes a little reading, but you can avoid being fooled by food labels. It’s just one more way you can improve your family’s health.
Dr. Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
Best Life Herbals