Reading labels is a must-do for anyone interested in eating healthier. Unfortunately, the labels are designed by food company pet lawyers (or so it seems) and can be a little hard to decipher. Food Truths, Food Lies has an extensive section on “learning your food” – the first few lines of this all-important section are reprinted here:
A big part of being a family doctor is paying attention to the little things. I do that pretty well. If you ask my wife she might tell you I pay a little too much attention to detail sometimes. When it comes to food, though, this is a good habit to get into.
Thirty years ago, we had no way of really knowing what we were putting into our bodies. More recently, the federal government has started paying attention to how heavy we are all getting and made rules about labeling food that are at least a step in the right direction. You may have seen this labeling, though you have to be looking for it to find it. The front of the package you see in the grocery is fair game for advertising and may say almost anything.
“Zero grams trans-fat” “Whole grains for your heart” “Now 30% leaner” “Lose weight and feel great”
You know what those labels say. The shelves are packed, there are little coupon dispensers and sale cards and bright lights everywhere, you’re tired and hungry and just want to get some groceries and get home to dinner. The last thing most people do is turn over the colorful, pretty package and look at the scientific stuff on the back.
Problem is, that’s what I plan to teach you to do. The way the laws are made, this is about the only part of the package that has to tell you the truth. Unfortunately even here the food companies have figured out ways to lie and mislead. We’ll talk about those ways a little later. For right now, the most important thing is remembering to turn the package over and look at the Nutrition Label.
The law that makes food companies do this also says what has to be shown and where. That at least makes our learning a little easier, since once you learn where to find the information on one package, you can be sure that the next package will have (almost) the same information .
Go to your cupboard or pantry and pick up some packaged grocery item. Fresh foods generally don’t have to list this, so a banana won’t tell you what you want to know, but the banana pudding next to it will. Some practice will make this label reading seem easier and easier until it’s second nature for you like it is for me. Now is when we have to start looking for the lies I talked about earlier, though.
Some law made the food companies tell you how many calories, carbohydrate and fat grams they used. What that law didn’t do was make them list the quality or the quantity of the ingredients they used. The simple test for the quality of ingredients used by a food company actually requires two steps.
Step one, do you recognize the words in the list of ingredients? If not, do you really want someone doing a chemistry experiment in your intestines? Step two is then deciding if you really want those ingredients to be what you are made of. Remember Truth Four: You are becoming what you eat.
There you have it, another taste of Food Truths, Food Lies!
Change Your Food, Change Your Life!
- 10 Nutrition Label Improvements the FDA MUST Implement (fooducate.com)
- FDA Creating New Nutrition Facts Label (huffingtonpost.com)