11 Aug Food Labels
What’s in a name? How Food Labels Fool Even the Savviest Shoppers
Bags of jelly beans proudly declare “contains fruit juice!” Deep-fried potato chips may boast “made from genuine russet potatoes!” Full fat ice cream treats tempt mothers by printing in big, bold letters “great source of vitamin D!”
While all of the above claims may be technically true, it is important to consider them in a larger context. In reality, we know that jelly beans, fried potato chips, and ice cream are not among the healthiest choices when it comes to nutrition. Instead, they are treats to be enjoyed on occasion.
While there are governmental controls and rules on the use of some terminology used to market food products, others are not strictly regulated at all. “Free range” and “farm raised,” for example, are basically defined by the company that uses them. The only general understanding for “free range” is that the animals had access to the outdoors.
“Doctor-recommended” is another term about which consumers should be wary. First, not all doctors are physicians. Second, not all physicians are trustworthy and well-trained. And third, “doctor recommended” could easily mean a single individual calling him or herself a doctor who was paid to endorse the food product the manufacturers are selling.
Serving size shenanigans
Every dieter has counted calories at one time or another. A quick glance at the nutrition label on a tasty treat will give you the figure you need to decide whether a food will fit into your calorie allotment for the day.
Calories listed on a nutrition label are given in terms of servings. The serving size listed, however, may not be the typical amount a person actually consumes in one sitting. If a pint of ice cream at the convenience store lists 250 calories on the label, make sure you carefully inspect the serving size before grabbing it out of the freezer. That 250-calorie listing might be for just half the container. If you eat the entire pint, you’ll be eating double the calories.
Typical serving sizes have changed over the years. They have changed to such an extent that the FDA is requiring all nutrition labels to comply with new serving size guidelines by the summer of 2018. The FDA’s new labeling guidelines will reflect serving sizes that more closely resemble the amounts consumers of today actually eat as a single serving. For example, instead of listing 8 ounces of soda as a serving across the board, the new guidelines will require listing a serving size as the size of the individual bottle in which the soda is contained (e.g., 12 ounces or 20 ounces, depending on the bottle).
In addition to adjustments in the presentation of serving size information, the FDA is requiring a number of other changes in food labeling. Some manufacturers’ labels are already in compliance with the new guidelines, but others have not yet made the change. Soon, all the labels you see on the foods you find in your local supermarket will be in larger, bolder type; will contain a new line indicating the amount of added sugars in a product; will reflect the FDA’s newly adopted RDAs for macronutrients; and will include a declaration indicating the exact amounts of certain vitamins and minerals.
Gluten-free, low carb, low fat–the list goes on. What’s trendy today is often proved incorrect tomorrow when it comes to health and nutrition.
Consider one of today’s most widespread nutrition fads: the demonization of gluten. If packaging labels were to be trusted, the fact that a product is “gluten free” would mean that it is healthy.
Not only is that untrue, it’s also unnecessarily limiting the diets of far too many people. The fact is, unless you have an incredibly rare condition called celiac disease, the chances that you are truly “gluten intolerant” are exceptionally low.
In other words, shopping for foods that are gluten-free will do nothing to boost the health of the typical consumer. If you do have celiac disease, however, going gluten-free is absolutely essential.
Questionable Quality Control
Vitamins, minerals, and other supplements fall outside the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the organization responsible for regulating the foods and drugs that are permissible to sell in the United States. Though they review supplements, they do so purely for safety, not for effectiveness. It is entirely possible, therefore, that a given supplement, while it may do you no harm, may also have few or no measurable health benefits.
When purchasing vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements, look for products whose manufacturers voluntarily submit to a respected credentialing authority. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and NSF International are two examples of organizations which require the manufacturers they certify to meet exceptionally rigorous standards.
Looking after your own nutrition and that of your family is crucial. Though food labels can be tricky, at Wellness Life Online, we have your back. Contact us today, and we will help you develop a plan for personally optimized nutrition for yourself and for those you love.