Reading Lables

Food labels can be difficult to understand and are at times misleading so it is important to be able decipher the nutrition facts and label claims to make sure you are getting the best nutrition from your food.

Common Misleading Labels

Multi-grain:  The term multi-grain is often used to describe breads or crackers that are made from multiple types of grain, this does not necessarily mean that they are whole-grains. The common misconception is that the terms multi-grain and whole-grain are interchangeable but they do not mean the same thing. Whole-grain means that all of the parts of the grain kernel are used making them a good source of fiber, vitamin B and minerals. Just because bread is multi-grain does not mean that they use whole-grains. To check if a bread or cracker that is multi-grain also uses whole-grains, look at the ingredients list and look for the first few ingredients to be “whole-oats,” “whole-wheat” or a similar type of “whole-grain.”

Zero trans fats: Trans-fats are fats that are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, a process used to keep the food from spoiling. The reason why is not exactly understood, but studies show that adding hydrogen to the oil increases cholesterol levels more than other fats when consumed. It actually raises your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lowers your “good” cholesterol (HDL) which increases your risk for heart disease. On the nutrition facts label, companies are allowed to claim that a product has 0g trans-fat if it less than 0.5g trans-fat per serving. So to know if a product really contains trans-fats you need to look at the ingredients list. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated” listed, the product contains trans-fats. “Fully” or “completely” hydrogenated oils are okay, unlike partially hydrogenated oils, the process to make these does not result in trans-fats.

Reduced or low fat: Reduced or low fat products can be very deceiving and are not always the better option. If a product claims to be reduced in fat that means that there is 25% less fat than the original product. If it is low fat that means there are less than 3g of fat per serving. The problem with low fat and reduced fat products is that there is often an increase in sodium and sugar to make up for missing fat. So make sure to read the rest of the nutrition facts and ingredients to see what the better option is. One product that it might be better to buy the full fat version of is peanut butter.

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