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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Nutrition Knowledge – What’s in a claim?

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It is important to understand how to read a food label, including the ingredient list, to determine if a food is really healthy or not.

Ingredients are listed in order from largest quantity to lowest quantity. So the first 2-3 ingredients listed make up the bulk of the product. If the ingredient list gets into multiple lines, it is probably not the healthiest option, and indicates a highly processed food.

Serving size can be deceptive, because nutrition facts listed are for one serving, and often the servings are two or more per package, and not what we would honestly eat.

Other label items that are important to note are sodium and added sugar. Some foods have natural sugar (dairy, fruit), but nutrition labels now split the sugar total to indicate if any of that total means sugar has been added. If sodium is high, it usually means a food is highly processed and the salt added may be sodium chloride, not natural salt.

Here are some of the claims that can be on the front of a package and how we should think about them. If we see these claims, we need to double check that ingredient list:

  • Light or low-fat — reduced calories or fat, which can mean artificial ingredients or fillers, the full-fat form in an appropriate portion may be the healthier choice.
  • Organic – should mean no pesticides or chemical fertilizers, but can still have a lot of sugar
  • No added sugar – artificial sweeteners may have been added
  • Low-carb – may be highly processed and have artificial ingredients
  • Made with whole grains – may be very little nutrient dense grains
  • Multigrain – doesn’t mean more fiber or more nutrition, often refined
  • Fortified – nutrients added, but not necessarily the best form or adequate amounts
  • Gluten-free – doesn’t mean low calorie or especially healthy
  • Flavored – can be just chemicals that add flavor
  • Zero trans fat – means that per serving it is less than .5 grams, but NO trans fat is healthy. If hydrogenated fat is in the ingredient list, avoid that product.

Remember, completely natural fruits, veggies and meats won’t have a nutrition label, because they are in their natural form. Let’s eat more of those!

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Patty Minta, RD, LDN
Patty Minta, RD, LDNhttps://nourishednestedandblessed.com/
Patty Minta is a Registered & Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. Visit her website for links, nutrition info and tips at www.nourishednestedandblessed.com.
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