According to the FDA regulations, food packagers can use the word ‘free’ as in ‘fat-free’ ‘sugar-free’ or ‘calorie-free’, even when that’s not the case!
The amounts are small, but they’re there. The impact of misleading food labeling comes to bear when manufacturers round down nutritional facts and use portion distortion to allow their nutrient claims.
So how do you navigate food labels?
Start by looking at the Nutrition Facts panel on the backside and note what the serving size is. In the past the serving size was up to the discretion of the manufacturer. Now serving sizes must be consistent among similar products, but are not necessarily reflective of your typical consumption. For example, have you ever had 2.5 servings from a can of Campbell’s Soup or only chewed 40 grams off of a 120 gram cookie? Me neither!
If you are wondering why you’re not seeing the results you want with your weight loss, perhaps the bag of fat free cookies you just inhaled is a bigger problem than you think. Manufacturers can also derail your diet by rounding down the nutritional value on a food label: with rounding, the company can claim 0 g of anything where there is less than 1 full gram.
This can really hurt you. For example, a cup of light cream has 7 grams of carbs, though the label may say 0 grams based on a tablespoon portion size. Powdered artificial sweeteners contain about one half gram of sugar per teaspoon because they use a form of glucose called maltodextrin to make them powdery. If you cook with a cup of powdered Splenda, you will be getting about 24 grams of carbohydrate, which is what you’d find in six teaspoons of sugar!
Bottom line, never trust the Nutritional claims on the front of a food package and refer to all of the facts on the backside Nutrition Facts table to make food choices that are best for you.
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