Healthy! Fresh! Light! The first thing that may catch your eye when shopping is a large-print label describing some nutritious feature of a product. Food labels with eye-catching banners and names sell better. Although food labels must conform to federal guidelines and use standard definitions for most terms, they can still be misleading. Understanding what these terms mean on food labels will help you know what you are choosing and how it fits into your diet.
Many food labels highlight individual nutrients, and just as no single food determines the healthiness of a diet, no single nutrient makes a food good or bad for you. Look beyond the fancy label and see what other contribution the food makes to your diet.
For example, chocolate cookies labeled “Fat Free” may not be your best choice if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake or increase the amount of fiber in your diet. A food labeled “Fresh” may sound appealing, but the term “fresh” doesn’t provide any information about the nutrient content of the product or how long it took this food to travel from the farm to the grocery store shelf. Any raw food that has not been frozen, heat processed or otherwise preserved can be labeled fresh. “Healthy” is another attractive byline that applies to more than a single nutrient. It implies that the product is wholesome and nutritious. In fact, to be described as “healthy”, a food must be low in fat and saturated fat, contain limited amounts of sodium and cholesterol, and be a good source of one or more important nutrients. While all of the qualities specified by the term “healthy” are part of a healthy diet, foods that fit in this definition are not necessarily the basis for a healthy diet. For instance, many fruit drinks fit the labeling definition of “healthy”. They are low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and supply at least 10% of the recommended intake for vitamin C. BUT they are high in added refined sugar and contain few other nutrients.
To get the whole picture, you need to look beyond the healthy-sounding labels of the product and read the nutrient content to see how it will fit into YOUR diet.
When it comes to food labels – Don’t Believe The Hype.
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