We have spent some time discussing diets. One very important thing is understanding labels. The sample label below is for Macaroni & Cheese. You can find this information interestingly enough, yes really, on the FDA website.
Reading a label is important if you want to see what the food makeup is and how nutritious or not it might be. Dr. Fuhrman says if it has a label it is suspect already. The manufacturer processed it in some way to have a label. Vegetables don’t have labels unless packaged as frozen or canned. Canned vegetables for example, may have other things added to them, particularly salt or other preservatives. Some even have some sweetener added. I’ll break this down and discuss each section.
This label brings all processed foods unto common ground. It breaks down the macro-nutrients and shows certain other parameters useful to the consumer.
This is what the label looks like. Today I want to look at the top section.
First notice that these are the nutrition facts. As we will see, you can decide if it is the facts or not. The manufacturer places this label on their product based on their findings. There have been known shall we call “cheating” to make the label look better. Reputable manufacturers don’t do that. There are independent labs checking some things. The FDA has the label so you can make quick, informed food choices that contribute to a healthy diet. (Their words)
Second is the serving size. The F.D.A. sets the serving size, not by the manufacturer, for all similar products (e.g., all yogurt) so you can make comparisons without having to do a lot of math. But be aware that your average serving might be more or less than this amount. If it is a high calorie food, they may say the size is 1/2 cup or even 1/4 cup in order to keep the calorie amount lower. Label makers know that the first thing most people look at is the number of calories. If it said 1 cup was 1000 calories, chances are you would put that back on the shelf. But if it said 250 calories per serving then you might put that in your shopping cart. For most foods 1 cup is an adequate serving size. 1 cup of macaroni and cheese would probably spread out over 1/2 the plate. Some serving sizes are not what most people would eat. Some manufactures will show a small serving size to reduce the trans fats below the .5 amount where they don’t have to list it.
The sizes are in standard formats. I sometimes get frustrated because it is in ounces and my calorie software lists it in cups or some other such incompatibility. Also this label shows the product as it is in the box. Some recipes will give the amount as prepared. Oatmeal might be 1/2 cup dry but 1 cup prepared. Some labels will show that. Other labels, like cereal, might show the amounts with or without a cup of milk. Here they show a better nutrient amount with the milk. Without it there might be nothing more than carbohydrates. One final note is that the serving size is also listed in grams. Most of us don’t use grams but it is there if you want it. So the serving size is important.
Also there is how many servings in a package. In this example, it only has 2 one cup servings. It helps you determine how much you need to buy. If there are a lot of servings in a box then double-check the serving size. Also note that if you ate the whole package that you would double all the amounts. You would be eating 500 calories. Sometimes it’s more difficult to figure. A can of vegetables like beans have the serving size as 1/2 cup and there are 3 and 1/2 servings in the can. If you eat half a can, how much are you eating? Let’s see there are three 1/2 cup servings so that is one and 1/2 cups plus a half of a 1/2 cup serving or a 1/4 cup so one and 1/2 cups plus 1/4 cup, divided by 2. Yeah right. Next time we will move down the label a notch to see what’s going on there.
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