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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

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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