Reading Food Labels

A place to get your questions answered from McDougall staff dietitian, Jeff Novick, MS, RDN.

Moderators: JeffN, Heather McDougall, carolve

Reading Food Labels

Postby Calistoga Bill » Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:14 pm

Jeff, I know you say never to believe anything on the front of the package, ever. Does that apply to the ingredients as well? I'm looking at a can of Rosarita Vegetarian 98% Fat Free Refried Beans. Under Nutrition Facts it says it has 100 calories per serving with 20 calories from fat, so that's 20%.
Then I go to Ingredients: Cooked Beans,Water, Less Than 2% of:Canola Oil**, Salt, Distilled Vinegar, Chile Pepper,Onion Powder, Spices, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavor.
**Adds a Trivial Amount of Fat
Does the government have a definition of "trivial?"
What is "Natural Flavor?"
Bill
Calistoga Bill
 
Posts: 87
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 11:38 am
Location: Napa Valley

Re: Reading Food Labels

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 16, 2008 2:17 pm

Calistoga Bill wrote:Jeff, I know you say never to believe anything on the front of the package, ever. Does that apply to the ingredients as well? I'm looking at a can of Rosarita Vegetarian 98% Fat Free Refried Beans. Under Nutrition Facts it says it has 100 calories per serving with 20 calories from fat, so that's 20%.
Then I go to Ingredients: Cooked Beans,Water, Less Than 2% of:Canola Oil**, Salt, Distilled Vinegar, Chile Pepper,Onion Powder, Spices, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavor.
**Adds a Trivial Amount of Fat
Does the government have a definition of "trivial?"
What is "Natural Flavor?"


Hi Bill

Rule #1 is "never beleive anything on the front of the package."

Rule #2 is "only look at the Nutrition Facts Label and the Ingredient List", so no, it does not apply.

In regard to the product you mentioned, it passed on the fat, but you didn't list the sodium.

The official guideline of "trivial" depends on what it is referring to as it is different for salt, sugar, calories or fat. For fat...

(b) Fat content claims. (1) The terms “fat free,” “free of fat,” “no fat,” “zero fat,” “without fat,” “negligible source of fat,” or “dietarily insignificant source of fat” or, in the case of milk products, “skim” may be used on the label or in labeling of foods, provided that:

(i) The food contains less than 0.5 gram (g) of fat per reference amount customarily consumed and per labeled serving or, in the case of a meal product or main dish product, less than 0.5 g of fat per labeled serving; and

(ii) The food contains no added ingredient that is a fat or is generally understood by consumers to contain fat unless the listing of the ingredient in the ingredient statement is followed by an asterisk that refers to the statement below the list of ingredients, which states “adds a trivial amount of fat,” “adds a negligible amount of fat,” or “adds a dietarily insignificant amount of fat;” and

(iii) As required in §101.13(e)(2), if the food meets these conditions without the benefit of special processing, alteration, formulation, or reformulation to lower fat content, it is labeled to disclose that fat is not usually present in the food (e.g., “broccoli, a fat free food”).


In regard to natural flavor..

(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in §§182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in §172.510 of this chapter.

In Health
Jeff Novick MS, RD
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:11 pm

The Sodium content is 520mg, which is 5 times what I recommend.

That sums it up right there.

This product clearly fails. It is on the border of fat, and way over on the sodium.

Need we go any further?

:)

The best thing to do is either cook some pinto beans yourself (or just buy a can of Eden Foods, No Salt Added Pinto Beans), then mash them up, add some fresh spices that you like and/or a little low sodium salsa.. It will be less expensive, healthier and better tasting.

In Health
Jeff Novick, MS, RD
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Label Guidelines

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:25 pm

Calistoga Bill wrote:Why does Rule #2 not apply? .


Rule number two does apply. But all of it. While I do say, only look at the Nutrition Facts Label and the Ingredient List, I also say, that we are very selective of what we look at, in each of those areas.

Under the Nutrition Facts Label, we only look at

1) calories,

2) calories from fat, and

3) sodium.

Under the Ingredient List, we look for

1) the type of fat, avoiding all forms of "bad" fats which are saturated animal fat (lard, butter, chix fat), saturated vegetable fat (tropical oils), man made saturated fats (hydrogenated, interesterified or modified) and all oils.

2) limit all refined sweeteners with at least none in the first 3 ingredients. The further down the list the better.

3) make sure it is made from whole grain, or sprouted whole grain (rolled, cracked and stone ground grains also acceptable) and that the whole grain is the primary ingredient.

The amount of loopholes and exceptions allowed on the FDA Food Label fill pages and pages of documents. Remember, the IRS tax code is easier to understand than the FDA Food Label.

Now, I can help you understand the math here, but my main point is to get people away from all these confusing issues and not to worry about all these loopholes and exceptions. Otherwise, you can drive yourself crazy trying to understand them all. Instead, I would rather everyone focus on the main 3 steps I teach,

1) Check the calories from fat against the calories

2) check the sodium against the calories

3) read the ingredients and look for the three things I mentioned above.

These 3 simple steps, in and of themselves, without having to learn and understand all the loopholes and exceptions, will help eliminate most all the junk and point to the healthiest foods.

My system is like the 1040 EZ form for everyone. :)

I hope that helps

In Health
Jeff Novick, MS, RD
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Postby Calistoga Bill » Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:59 am

Jeff, Thanks for your in-depth reply. It's a great cheat sheet for reading food labels. I'll quit obsessing over the minutia.
Bill
Calistoga Bill
 
Posts: 87
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 11:38 am
Location: Napa Valley


Return to Jeff Novick, RD

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


cron

Welcome!

Sign up to receive our regular articles, recipes, and news about upcoming events.