a LaFrance Consulting Services™ e-Course
Nutrition for Liberal Arts Students, independent study


Food Labels

Food Labels make interesting reading. I once saw low fat Milky Way® bars in a vending machine, so I bought a low fat Milky Way and a normal (high fat?) Milky Way. The low fat Milky Way assured me that it contained 20% less fat, which turned out to be a true statement. However, the low fat Milky Way also contained 20% less candy bar, by weight in grams. Another day, I purchased a package of Wheat Thins from another vending machine. As I took the package out of the vending machine, I noticed that it too was reduced fat, so again I read the label and learned to my surprise that the small envelope of crackers contained 7 servings. The serving size was 3 crackers. I had always assumed that vending machines sold single-serving containers. The Food Labels make interesting reading because they provide information that can help you live a longer, and healthier life. But first, you have to learn to read them.
    We are not discussing the package labelling, which is intended to persuade you to buy this particular item rather than some other item. The package labelling may not be as honest as we would like. The only regulatory limits on what can appear on the package labelling other than the “Nutrition Label” is that the there can be no health claims unless the company has clinical data to support the claims. Beyond that, there are “standard definitions” for a list of statements which are permitted, such as the following:
      “high,” “rich in,” “good source of” …
            provided that the food contains 20 percent or more of the RDI or the DRV per reference amount customarily consumed [or serving].
      “good source,” “contains,” “provides” …
            provided that the food contains 10 to 19 percent of the RDI or the DRV per [serving].
      “more,” “fortified,” “enriched,” “added,” “extra,” and “plus” …
            provided that: The food contains at least 10 percent more of the RDI for vitamins or minerals or of the DRV for protein, dietary fiber, or potassium (expressed as a percent of the Daily Value) per [serving] than an appropriate reference food; and Where the claim is based on a nutrient that has been added to the food…

The Food Label is on the “Information panel,” on the side to the right of the front [Package Display Panel] of the package, in a box with a line border. It is titled “Nutrition Facts,” and its content is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Under the Nutrition Facts box, there must be a complete listing of ingredients in order from highest quantity to lowest quantity, followed by the manufacturer's name and address. It is easiest to describe by an example, for which I choose Girl Scout Cookies; the Peanut Butter Sandwich, because it includes two of the ‘food groups:’ peanut butter and cookies, but is missing the chocolate and coffee. I will simply read down the label [high-lighted in yellow], with comments [not high-lighted].
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 3 cookies (35g) And who eats only 3 cookies per serving?
Servings Per Container about 7 we all know that it contains only two serving; there are only 2 sleeves of cookies inside
Amount per Serving
Calories 170 Calories from Fat 60
%Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 10%
Saturated Fat 2.5g 13% Roizen & Oz suggest less than 4%, so this is OK
Trans Fat 0g the UL (Upper Limit) is 0g, you always want no more than 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 120mg 5% try to keep your daily average total (all foods) at or below 100%
Total Carbohydrates 24g 8%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Sugars 10g there is no RDA for sugar
Protein 4g
Vitamin A 0% - Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0% - Iron 4%
*percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs:

This is followed by a table showing amounts of Total Fat, Sat Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Total Carbohydrate & Dietary Fiber for 2,000 and 2,500 calorie diets; then
Calories per gram for Fat 9 - Carbohydrate 4 - Protein 4
[this is where we don't want to see the key ingredients Roizen & Oz recommend avoiding:
  NONE of these in the first five ingredients!
    simple sugar (anything ending in -ose or -ol, except cholesterol)
    enriched, bleached or refined flour (any grain)
    high fructose corn syrup, nor corn syrup, nor ‘corn syrup solids’
    saturated fat, trans fat (acceptable is 100% whole grain)
    partially hydrogenated…]
[1] Sugar,
[2] oats,
[3] peanuts,
[4] enriched Flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid),
[5] vegetable shortening (palm, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottenseed oils),
contains less than 2% of:
[6] dextrose,
[7] corn syrup,
[8] corn flour,
[9] leavening (ammonium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate),
[10] corn syrup solids,
[11] salt,
[12] food starch-modified,
[13] corn starch,
[14] whey,
[15] natural and artificial flavor,
[16] soy lecithin

Contains: Wheat, soy, peanuts, milk. warnings for the allergic population
Notice the “hidden” sugars (and position in list): Sugar [1], dextrose [6], corn syrup [7], corn syrup solids [10]. Only “sugar” (in the ingredient list) counts as sugar for the total carbohydrates and sugar higher up on the label. The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] has contacted food manufacturers to advise them there is a planned increase in enforcement of “misleading information” on carbohydarate and calorie content of foods
as it relates to “sugar free,” and “low” or “reduced in” calories.

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revised: 01 Sep 2010