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Food Labels – Facts, Fantasies, and Foolishness

I found myself in an unfamiliar grocery store last weekend, and I was impressed (shocked!) by the number of processed, artificial, and man-made foods they had there. Most of them were also nutrient free but some of them acted like they were healthy and nutritious, when they really were not made of foods I want in my body. So, I want to talk about reading the ingredient list today.

When it comes to following your food plan, understand that our goal is to choose healthy, nutrient rich food, as close as we can get it to the way Higher Power and Mother Nature planned it, and in the amount that fits your food plan.

If a food requires no label, like fresh apples and celery stalks, and all fresh fruits and vegetables, these are ok. When it comes to reading food labels, though, lots of us struggle.

So, this will be the beginning of a series on label reading. I will show you some good labels, some bad labels, and some sneaky labels.  And we can discuss GMO, organic, etc. If you have a food you have questions about, please send me the label and the ingredient list so we can discuss it here.

I am focusing on a food plan that is sugar and flour free, or nearly so, in this segment.  We are all human so what works for one, may or may not work for another.  I will try to cover all of this, but if I miss something, or you have a desire to understand something specific, please reach out – I assure you someone else is thinking the same thing.

The first rule is: Do not rely on the front of the package. This is the advertisement. This is the place where the manufacturer showcases his product in the best possible light. While all that is there may be true, the front of the package is not required to share the whole truth. And some research studies have shown that adding health claims to the front of the package makes people believe that the product is healthier than others – even if it isn’t.

The second rule is always read the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredient list. If you cannot find them or do not understand them, do not buy the product.

The Third rule is: If the product contains items that are unfamiliar to you, do not trust that they are ok.  You may want to consider further whether you should eat it. After all, what do hydrogenated mono and diglycerides look like? If you saw them in a bowl, would you recognize them? Would they be appetizing to you? And what do they do for your body anyway?

Now this is a lovely photo of a sample ingredient list published by Banner Health.

When we are done, you will know how to read all of it. But just for today, I want to comment on a couple of items. And next week, we will go over the whole label.

For today, please look first at the serving size (1).  This is what the manufacturer thinks you should be eating. There is a measurement of cups and ounces or grams. It may be more or less than your food plan suggests.  These have been changed with the new labeling laws to what is thought to be a reasonable amount. Check it against your food plan.  Make sure that the serving size is close to what your food plan requires.  The label will also tell you the number of servings in that container so that you know how much food for the week you will have.  To continue with the other calculations to evaluate this food, you must use the serving size. Is this serving size reasonable for you?

In my example, it says that 2/3 cup provides 230 calories. That is a lot for 2/3 cup. While we don’t know what food this label is for, usually we count 80 to 110 calories as a ½ cup of a carbohydrate serving.

Now, in number 8 it says:
Total carbohydrate: 37 g

Fiber: 4 g

Sugars: 12 g

Added sugar 10 g

This could mean several things: one thing is that this food may contain a whole lot of whole grain carbohydrates. It could be that the manufacturer counts as carbohydrate some items that we count as sugar (Next week we will discuss these sugars.). But there are 12 grams sugar: 2 grams are in the product, and 10 grams are sweetener added to the product. Four grams of sugar are equivalent to 1 teaspoon added sugar. That means that each serving has 2 ½ teaspoons of added sugar!

And will 2/3 cup be enough for you?

At this point I would recommend you replace the product carefully on the shelf and look for another food or variety. To recap, if we are doing a sugar free flour free food plan; added sugar is not what Mother Nature would do, 2 ½ teaspoons of added sugar is too much, and 37 grams of total grams of carbohydrate is too much for 2/3 of a cup.  Three strikes and it is out! Bye bye!

It is a lovely chart, though and next week we will go over more of the chart.

Be welcome to send me any labels you are not sure of; we can discuss them in the coming weeks. I hope this was helpful to you; call or email with any questions, and I am sorry we could not do the whole label at once.

Have a joyful week

Blessings to you;


2 Responses to Food Labels – Facts, Fantasies, and Foolishness

  1. Edward A Rubin January 25, 2022 at 3:04 pm #

    At some point in this series could you discuss carbohydrates and fiber to count carbs for those of us that are diabetic. I am now a type one diabetic and it was a real surprise to me when I learned that.

    • H. Theresa Wright January 26, 2022 at 1:19 am #

      Yes, of course. It is coming! So glad to hear from you.

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