Making the new food label work for you

If you’re like most teens, you spend time cruising the local supermarket aisles in search of something good to eat. Even if you think you know what you want, once you get to that aisle, do you find yourself confused by the the choices? Don’t despair. Help is usually right in front of you – in the form of the new food labels. These new labels feature a redesigned nutrition panel that includes fat, fiber, and calcium information. Still not sure? Join us at the supermarket.


Cruising the Aisles

Make the new food label work for you, whether you’re just looking for a healthy snack or doing the family shopping. Let’s take a quick look at the newest trends in food label facts.

First stop, the produce section. Lots of variety here, but no labels on the bananas or broccoli. Look for posters, brochures, or signs listing nutrition information for the 20 most popular fruits and vegetables. Nutrition data should include calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, sodium, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Load up on foods from this section for nutrition-packed, low-fat snacks.

Heading for the salad bar for a quick lunch? You won’t find any labels here, either. Salad bar and deli items are not required to carry nutrition labeling. If you’re concerned about fat and calories. go easy on the prepared salads ads such as coleslaw, potato salad, and marinated vegetables – and on the salad dressings. Look for fresh fruits, raw veggies, lean ham or turkey, and reduced-fat salad dressing.

What’s in a Serving?

Moving down the next aisle, still on the lookout for just the right snack, a new cereal catches your eye. “New, High in Fiber” says the front of the box. To get the details, turn it over and look for the “Nutrition Facts” panel. Check the serving size listed. Serving sizes now are created equal, making it easier to compare pare similar food products. Standard serving sizes also are based on amounts people typically eat. They’re listed on the label in household measurements, for example, in cups or tablespoons. You may need to adjust the serving size to the amount you actually eat. Is you typical serving of cereal 1 cup or closer to 2 cups?

Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, clue % Daily Value gives you a clue to a food’s nutrient contribution to your total intake. Some Daily Values are related to maximum amounts of the nutrient you shouldn’t exceed, such as for fat’s, cholesterol, and sodium. Others relate to recommended minimum levels, which you can exceed if you want@ examples re total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and some vitamins and minerals. Use the % Daily Value to select foods high in specific nutrients or to compare similar products.

Moving on to the frozen foods, ill in search of the perfect snack, compare the Nutrition Facts on ice cream and frozen yogurt. Start with Total Fat. This includes all types of fat-saturated, polyunsaturated, and monoun-saturated. Only saturated fat must be listed separately; the manufacturer may list the others. Diets low in saturated fat help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. Use this information to balance higher-fat food choices with lower-fat choices.

Now, look under Total Carbohydrates hydrates. This includes starches, dietary fiber, and sugars. Sugars, as listed in the Nutrition Facts panel, include naturally occurring sugars in foods, as well as added sugars. Most dairy products contain lactose, or milk sugar. Other foods that contain natural sugars are fruits, vegetables, cereals, grains, and beans.

Nutrient Claims

“Fat-free” is emblazoned on the frozen yogurt label. Can you believe it? Yes. Descriptive terms like low-fat or sugar-free must meet strictly defined government guidelines. Nutrition claims mean the same on every product.

Fat-free: less than 0.5 g fat per serving

Low-fat: 3 g or less per serving

Calorie-free: less than 5 calories per serving

Sugar-free: less than 0.5 g sugar per serving

High calcium, protein, fiber, iron, vitamin A or C: contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Value

Good source of calcium, protein, fiber, iron, vitamin A or C: contains 10 percent to 19 percent of the Daily Value for that nutrient

Scanning the crackers/cookies section, you may find more nutrition claims, linking health issues with nutrients, such as sodium and hypertension. What’s going on here? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved these claims that show a link between certain nutrients and health@

* Calcium deficiency with osteoporosis

* High sodium with hypertension (high blood pressure)

* High dietary fat with cancer

* Dietary saturated fat and cholesterol with risk of coronary heart disease

* Fiber-containing grain products fruits, and vegetables with lower risk of cancer

* Fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain fiber, particularly soluble fiber, with reduced risk of coronary heart disease

* Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy with neural tube defects (birth defects in newborns)

Before you head to the checkout line, remember; Use the nutrition label to help you include, not exclude foods. If an old favorite is high in fat, use the label to find low-fat foods to balance out fat intake over the day. Make the label work for you to find foods that are high in certain nutrients you need. Balance, variety, and moderation are still keys to healthful and enjoyable eating.

For more


Consumer Information Center Department 520 C Pueblo, Colorado 81009 Pamphlet: “Food Label Close-Up,” single copy free.

Food and Drug Administration Office of Consumer Affairs 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 16-63 (HFE-88) Rockville, MD 20857 Pamphlet: “On the Teen Scene: Food Label Makes Good Eating Easier,” single copy free.

ConAgra Frozen Foods Consumer Affairs Department H P.O. Box 3768 Omaha, NE 68103 Brochure New” single copy free with stamped. self-addressed business-size envelope.


Olestra is a calorie-free fat replacer recently approved by the FDA. Made from a special combination of table sugar and vegetable oil, olestra molecules are too large to be digested or absorbed.

Clinical testing of olestra found that the absorption of certain fat-soluble nutrients in other foods eaten at the same time as the olestra-containing food was decreased. To offset any affects on vitamins A, D, E, and K, manufacturers will add these vitamins to snacks made with olestra.

Other side effects from eating foods with olestra can include intestinal cramping and loose bowels.

Expects to see olestra appear first in snack foods, such as potato chips and corn chips. A 1-ounce bag of potato chips made with olestra contains no fat and about 70 calories; 1 ounce of regular chips provides 10 grams of fat and 150 calories. As with any food, moderation is the key.

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