Are food labels really telling us the truth? Can we actually understand what they are saying? Although ingredient lists on food products are supposed to inform us, the consumers, about what’s contained in the product, this is sometimes not the case.Companies are able to mislead consumers by advertising healthier foods when actually their products contain completely different amounts of vitamins, carbohydrates, sugar, protein, fat – both saturated and unsaturated, sodium, cholesterol and various other ingredients. Ignore the hype on the front of the packaging; ignore how attractive the packaging may be. This is just to distract the consumer into buying the product. There are a couple of things to consider when looking at the nutrition label.
Determine the actual serving size and servings per container. Read carefully. Often what you may consider a serving is not what the manufacturer labels as a serving. For example, take an 11 ounce bag of tortilla chips. The serving size is 1 ounce (which is about 9 chips). There are then 11 servings per container. How often would you eat only 9 chips? Especially when there is a bowl of delicious salsa next to them. So be careful and read carefully.
Calories and Fats
Calories are energy. If you consume more total calories than your body actually needs for energy, you will gain weight. If you consumer fewer calories than your body needs for energy, you will lose weight. You will also usually see a line of calories from fat. A good guideline to follow is that no more than thirty percent of your daily calories should come from fat. Always keep in mind that fat is the most concentrated source of calories. There are 9 calories per gram of fat. And most importantly about fat is, if it is TransFat, DO NOT consume it.
Try and remember that approximately 4 grams of sugar is equal to a teaspoon of sugar. So, a can of soda can contain about 20 teaspoons of sugar. Sugar may also be listed further down on the list. Manufacturers get away with this by using a combination of sweeteners such as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, brown sugar, dextrose and other sugars to make sure none of them are present in large enough quantities to earn a top position on the ingredient list.
Watch out for innocent sounding names of dangerous ingredients. Sodium Nitrite sounds harmless enough, but is known to cause brain tumors. Similarly, yeast extracts sounds like a perfectly safe ingredient, unless you’re allergic to monosodium glutamate (MSG). Listing MSG as yeast extract avoids having to include MSG on the list. And what about Carmine? Sounds nice? It’s a food colouring that is sometimes used in juices or yogurts to make them red. Carmine is made from the smashed bodies of the Cochineal and Polished Cochineal Beetle. Ewww.
Advertising and Fat-Free
Food manufacturers have many tricky ways around government restrictions on false advertising and the regulation of ingredients. Advertising products as Fat-Free is a prime example of companies lying to the consumer. The FDA’s policy regarding fat content is that if the food product contains more than 0.5 grams of fat, then it must be listed. To comply with this regulation, manufacturers alter the servings per container. With more servings, there is a reduced serving size, make the product appear healthier with less fat. If the fat content is less than .5 grams it can be rounded down, so consumers see the product having 0 grams of fat, when in actuality it contains a significant amount of fat.
Whether you’re strictly following a diet that completely cuts your carbohydrates , or just trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle, the nutrition facts on the back of food are very important to you. One might even say that the health information obtained from food labels help to guide a person’s entire day; planning meals and what snacks to munch on. With misleading labels, people are ingesting unknown quantities of various ingredients which can prevent effective weight loss and sabotage a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to read carefully and read between the lines!
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