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Monday, September 5, 2011

Can We Trust the Nutrition Facts Label?

Many Registered Dietitians promote using the nutrition facts label to understand basic concepts of nutrition such as calories, protein, carbohydrates, etc. It is a great tool for necessary record keeping.  However, knowing and understanding the nutrition facts label is another story. 

Have you ever seen a product's nutrition facts label say 0 calories, 0 fat, 0 this, 0 that....0 everything! This is GREAT, right?? Wrong!  What the label (or better yet, the manufacturer) is trying to tell you is 'buy me I'm 0 calories', but what you should know is the FDA has a list of Food Labeling Guide Rules that manufactures must follow.  One of those "rules" is that if the product has less than 0.5 grams of total fat in the labeled serving size it can be marketed as Fat Free and therefore be labeled as 0 grams total fat.  Did you get that?  The product still has 0.5 grams or less per serving size.  So, if the serving size is 1 tbsp and you eat 4 tbsp, you could potentially be consuming up to 2 grams total fat when you thought it you were consuming 0 grams of total fat! Follow this link to see these kind of claims & the rules.

Now for a real food example, spray butter.  Parkay or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter are the most popular and wide spread-both are marketed as 0 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams trans fat...etc.  Read this to understand what is really going on with this Fat Free & Calorie Free food-an awesome example to keep you on your toes when you think what you are eating is 0 calories!  Spray butters are a great way to reduce calories and still get that buttery, savory flavor that is desired. However, if you are dumping the bottle on a ear of corn and thinking you aren't adding any calories-guess again.  The entire bottle has 832 calories & 93 total grams of fat-hardly calorie or fat free!

The nutrition facts panel is still a great resource, but we want you to understand and know that when something is too good to be true...it probably is! Be informed before making choices. Know what you can expect in certain claims made on nutrition facts labels. 


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