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The Informed Parent

Food Label Jumble

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Mar. 10, 2008
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In the battle of trying to keep our families and ourselves healthy, food choices rank as a top priority. Although many of us have learned how to eat healthily from a very young age it is easy to be distracted from those simple ideals.

There is a strong movement toward more facts and practical usability on food labels. Still it can be quite confusing trying to figure out what you are getting from a food product. While reading REAL SIMPLE magazine, I recently came across a succinct description of some popular language often advertised on labels. I found it very useful. And here’s  hoping you will too! Below is a quick summary of what it says versus what it means, when food labels advertise the following:

HEART HEALTHY: 3 gm or less fat/serving with at least 0.6 gm soluble fiber/serving, should also be low in cholesterol and sodium.

LIGHT: 30% less calories than the regular item, may be up to 50% less sodium or fat than the regular item.

FAT FREE: less than 0.5 gm fat/serving, but watch the sugar or starch that may be added to keep the flavor.

LOW FAT: less than 3 gm fat/serving, but watch the sugar and starch contents.

ORGANIC: 95% of ingredients should be organic meaning made without pesticides, fertilizers or genetic engineering; also are usually significantly more costly.

NATURAL: no artificial flavors, preservatives or synthetic ingredients; but no implication for calories/fat/sugar per serving.

LOW CARB: no standard/!!! Watch for fat and sugar content

LOW SODIUM: 140 mg sodium or less/serving.

NO ANTIBIOTICS OR NO HORMONES : animals were not given either while being raised; usually refers to meat, poultry or dairy items.

SUGAR FREE: 0.5 gm sugar/serving or less, but watch calories and starch content.

Here’s hoping these quick descriptions make your trips down the food aisles a little smarter and more healthful for you and your family!




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