Food Label Focus

by Deborah A. Klein

Here's What You'll Find Below:• Should you bring it home? Check the "big three."
• Is the package deceptive? Decipher dietary deception
Are ingredients dangerous? Learn about red flag ingredients

Food Label Focus

The labels on food can be your friend...or they can be deceptive. To know if it's an optimal food to bring home, check the food label for these 3 main items -- fat, fiber and sodium.

  1. Fat
    Follow Deborah's "3 rules" to choose low-fat foods! Look on a food label for the total grams of fat; multiply that by 3, add a 0 at the end or move the decimal place over to the right. Compare that number with the total calories, if less than the total calories, it's less than 30% calories from fat = LOW-FAT. Example: 5 grams of fat, 180 calorie food; 5 X 3 = 15, add a 0, = 150; 150 is less than 180 so this product is LOW-FAT.

  2. Fiber
    Fiber is your best friend for increased satisfaction; high fiber foods give you more for your chew! Aim for 3 grams or more of dietary fiber per slice of bread/per snack-for example, crackers, sports bars, and 5 or more grams per serving of cereal or per meal.

    High fiber starches include whole-wheat couscous, sprouted grain bread, oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, barley, bulgur, brown rice, yams, or winter squash.

    High fiber fruits include S or S fruits (edible skin or edible seeds fruit): apples, strawberries, blueberries or oranges (get bioflavonoids and fiber from the white part of the orange).

    High fiber vegetables: Focus on eating one cruciferous vegetable daily, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, mustard greens, rutabagas and turnips. Numerous research studies show these offer protection against certain cancers and they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals).

    Follow the rainbow of colors when choosing your weekly fruits and vegetables to provide a variety of vitamins and minerals (for example, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, chard, kale, collard greens, zucchini, red/yellow bell peppers, apples, berries, pears, oranges, limes).

    Aim for 5 a day for your fruits and vegetables. Have 2 fruits and 3 vegetables daily.
    • One serving of fruit equals 1 small fresh fruit (2 inch across), ¼ cup of dried fruit (try to buy naturally dried, unsulfured) or ½ cup canned in it's own juice or ½ cup fresh fruit or ½ cup unsweetened fruit juice (100% juice). Have a maximum of a half cup juice per day mixed with water to prevent the calories from adding up so quickly. Eat your fruit rather than drink it, so you get the fiber and increased satisfaction.
    • One serving of non-starchy vegetables is ½ cup of cooked vegetables or vegetable juice or 1 cup of raw vegetables.

  3. Sodium
    Try choosing low sodium foods more often: Aim for less than 150 mg per serving on most products and less than 400 mg sodium per serving for frozen foods. When a food is higher in sodium, please drink a lot of water to flush the sodium through, and balance that high sodium food with lots of vegetables to provide even more hydration and fiber. If you have hypertension, aim for less than 2,000 mg or 2 grams of sodium per day.

Learn the 3 D's -- Deciphering Dietary Deception!

Before going grocery shopping, prepare yourself with the dietary deception on food labels with specific ingredients to look for and specific foods that cause concern.

The key words to look for are Lite, Free, Diet and Sugar Free. These words often translate into a packaged food that is not clean (meaning contains chemicals that may be carcinogenic, low in fiber (has no satiety value) and can actually increase your appetite, not conducive for weight loss).