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Food Label Terms and Their Meanings
Following are some more repetitively used food label terminologies:
Low Calorie: Allowed to contain only 40 calories per serving or a maximum of four calories per gram
Reduced Calorie: Must have at least one-third fewer calories than the original product and should include a comparison of both versions.
Diet or Dietetic: The product may be lower in calories, sodium or sugar.
Light or Lite: This term can have any meaning the manufacturer wants to use it for, such as a relation to taste, texture, color or may have a lowered calorie fat or sodium content.
No Cholesterol: Means that the item has no cholesterol but may still be high in saturated fats which may assist the body to produce cholesterol.
Low Fat: When pertaining to dairy products, they must only contain between 0.45 and 2 percent fat by weight.
Extra Lean: Usually pertains to meat and poultry. They must have no more than 5 percent fat by weight.
Lean: Usually pertains to meat and poultry. They must have no more than 10 percent fat by weight.
Leaner: Usually pertains to meat and poultry. Must have at least 25 percent less fat than the standard.
Sugar free or Sugarless: Should contain no table sugar but still may contain some of the following: honey, corn syrup, sorbitalor fructose. Most of which are just other forms of sugar and still high in calories.
Sodium Free: Should contain less than 5mg per serving.
Very Low Sodium: Contains 35mg or less per serving.
Reduced Sodium: The normal level of sodium in the product has been reduced by at least 75 percent.
No Salt Added: Salt has not been added during the unsalted processing. The food may still have other ingredients that contain sodium.
Imitation: A food which is a substitute for another food and is usually nutritionally inferior. May still contain the same number of calories and fat.
Organic: May pertain to almost anything. Usually means a food that is grown without the use of artificial fertilizers.
Natural: May mean anything, no regulations apply and may be seen on foods that have additives and preservatives.
Enriched: A degraded, processed product that if fortified has nutrients added back in.
Reading Food Labels for Fat and Cholesterol
Do you ever wonder what is really in the foods you eat? The labels on canned, packaged, and frozen foods tell you. Comparing these labels will help you choose foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, and calories.
Reading food labels is one of the best things you can do for your nutritional health.
What to Look For on the Label
Look for the box on the label that says, “Nutritional Facts”. Then look at the numbers for each of the items below:
This number tells you how many grams (g) of fat are in one serving. Choose foods with the lowest numbers of total fat.
This number tells you how many grams (g) of saturated fat are in one serving. Saturated fat raises your cholesterol the most. Look for foods that have little or no saturated fat.
This number tells you how much cholesterol is in 1 serving. Choose foods with the lowest numbers for cholesterol. You should eat less than 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day.
This is the amount of food in one serving. This is important because many of us glance at say a small entree’ nutrition label and see, “370 calories per serving”. We don’t look beyond that thinking the entire entree is 370 calories when in fact, the fine print tells you that the small package is supposed to serve 2!
Therefore, check the number of servings, then ask yourself if this is the amount you will eat. If you eat more, obviously you will get more of everything on the label, including fat, cholesterol and calories.
Calories From Fat
This number tells you how many calories from fat are in one serving. Look for foods with the fewest calories from fat.
Percent Daily Value
A large number means one serving contains a lot of that ingredient. A low number means one serving contains a small amount. Look for foods that have low numbers for total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
Reading Food Labels for Sodium and Fiber
If you have high blood pressure, you’ve most likely been told to eat less salt (sodium). You can use the food labels on canned, packaged, and frozen foods to help you choose foods that are low in sodium.
Food labels also tell you how much fiber is in a serving. Eating plenty of fiber has many nutritional benefits.
What to Look For
Look for sodium and fiber under “Nutrition Facts”.
Sodium. This number tells you how much sodium is in one serving. Choose foods with the lowest number for sodium. Or look for foods that say Low-Sodium or Sodium-Free.
Fiber. This number tells you how much fiber is in one serving. Look for foods that have the most fiber.
Eat Less Sodium
If you have high blood pressure, your health care provider may tell you to eat 2,400 mg or less of sodium a day. This can help lower your blood pressure. Here are some tips to help you:
- Buy fresh food whenever you can, or buy plain frozen food.
- Take the salt shaker off the table and the stove. Instead, season with herbs, spices, lemon juice, or vinegar.
- Limit your use of soy sauce, steak and chili sauce, onion and garlic salt and packaged seasoning mixes.
- Before you try a salt substitute, ask your doctor if it’s safe for you.
Words That Mean A Lot of Sodium
Under “Nutrition Facts”, you will also find a list of ingredients. Any of the following words near the top of the list warns you that the food is high in sodium:
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Sodium Bicarbonate
- Pickles or pickled
Eat More Fiber
Eating enough fiber can help lower your risk of heart disease. One kind of fiber, soluble fiber, helps lower cholesterol. Both soluble and insoluble fiber may also help you control your weight. That’s because foods that are high in fiber make you feel full for longer.
Try to eat 20 to 35 grams (g) of fiber a day. Most people eat about half that much. Start by adding fiber to your diet slowly. This will help prevent gas. And be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
Reading food labels will help you find foods that are high in fiber.
Good sources include:
- Fruits and vegetables (eat at least five servings a day)
- Whole-grain breads and cereals (make them the main part of your meals)
- Legumes such as beans and lentils (try them in soups, stews and salads)
Read More: Food Facts