Nutrition facts labels are intended to guide consumers in choosing and using food products wisely. Many times, the label is overlooked until after unnecessary calories, cholesterol, fat, sodium or sugar has been consumed. It’s a good idea to take the time to read labels first, checking serving size and calorie content.
Information from Tanda Kidd, who is a Nutrition Specialist with K-State Research and Extension, puts it in perspective. “Imagine, for example, a thirsty teen who downs a 20 ounce bottle of pop – the equivalent of two and a half 8 ounce servings – before reading the nutrition facts label on the bottle. Drinking water to quench thirst and reserving smaller servings of higher calorie beverages for special occasions could have been a healthier choice.” Kidd also advises consumers to check the fat, cholesterol and sodium content in a product and the percent of the total daily value (which is typically figured for an adult eating 2000 calories a day) before buying.
I am the first to admit that labels can be confusing; especially in the area of identifying fats. We know that a high fat diet increases the risk of heart disease and other issues from obesity. But, choosing a fat-free or reduced-fat version of a product may not be a better overall choice. To earn labeling as a fat-free product, a food product is required to have less than one-half of a gram of fat per serving. To earn labeling as a reduced-fat product, a food product will have 25 percent less of fat than a standard product. When a fat-free or reduced-fat product is formulated, sugar, salt and/or other ingredients often will be increased to compensate for the flavor from the missing fat.
The next time you are at the store compare regular creamy peanut butter and a reduced fat version of the same brand. My guess is that the one with reduced fat will have a significant increase in either sodium or sugar and may even have less fiber. In the end eating a small portion of the regular brand may be the healthiest choice. That may be the key phrase here; eating a small portion. The next time you reach for a snack look at the serving size on the label. Measure out one serving and then put the container away and out of site.
If you have any questions about label reading, feel free to give me a call.