Many of us are good at reading the nutritional labels on the foods we buy, but what about the other labels that some foods carry. What about labels such as “fat-free,” “reduced calorie,” or “light.”
Here are some definitions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health that might be helpful:
- Low-calorie – 40 calories or less per serving
- Reduced-calorie – at least 25 percent fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food
- Light or lite – one-third fewer calories; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50 percent or more
- Sugar-free – less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving
- Reduced sugar – at least 25 percent less sugar per serving when compared with a similar food
- Fat-free or 100 percent fat free – less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
- Low-fat – 3 grams or less per serving
- Reduced-fat – at least 25 percent less fat when compared with a similar food
Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie free. People tend to think they can eat as much as they want of fat-free foods. Even if you cut fat from your diet but consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.
Also, fat-free or low-fat foods may contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. You need to check the food labels carefully. For example, a fat-free muffin may be just as high in calories as a regular muffin. So, remember, it is important to read your food labels and compare products.
Finding the nutrient content of foods that don’t have food labels:
When you get a pound of salmon in the meat department of your grocery store, it doesn’t come with a Nutrition Facts label. The same goes for the fresh apples or eggplants that you get in the produce department.
How do you find out the nutrient content of these foods that don’t have food labels?
You can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database. This is a bit harder than using the Nutrition Facts label. But by comparing different foods you can get an idea if a food is high or low in saturated fat, sodium, and other nutrients. To compare lots of different foods at one time, check out the USDA’s Nutrient Lists.