Deciphering Food Labels

Does low-fat always mean healthy?
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Q. "Low-fat, low-salt, fat-free, calorie-free -- all these labels and varieties of foods are confusing! How many food choices do we need? As a dietitian, do you think all of these new food choices will make a difference in the way people eat?"

A. A simple trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming with all the options that are now available. There are more than 60,000 foods available in the average grocery store today, enabling consumers to make healthy choices. The key is deciding what is appropriate for you and your family. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site offers a helpful guide to reading food nutrition labels at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html. For example, the FDA requires that foods carrying claims about fat meet the following conditions:

  • Reduced fat: 25 percent less fat than the non-reduced-fat version of the product
  • Light: 50 percent less fat than the non-light version of the product
  • Low fat: 3 grams of fat per serving of 2 tablespoons

Consumers should also be aware that low-fat foods are not always the healthiest option. A food may be low-fat, but high in sugar and calories at the same time. When making food choices, all ingredients should be taken into consideration.

 

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