According to the guidelines for food labels, in order for a food to be labeled 'calorie free' it must have less than five calories per serving. 'Low fat' choices need to have three grams of fat or less per serving. Here are some more guidelines to help you better understand the claims on food labels.
Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving
Fat free: Less than 0.5g fat of saturated fat per serving
Saturated fat free: Less than 0.5g of saturated fat and less than 0.5g of trans fatty acids
Low saturated fat: 1g or less saturated fat per serving
Sodium free (or salt free): Less than 5mg sodium per serving
Very low sodium: 35mg of sodium or less per serving
Low sodium: 140mg of sodium or less per serving
Reduced sodium: At least 25 per cent less sodium per serving than the regular version
Cholesterol free: Less than 2mg cholesterol per serving
Low cholesterol: 20mg or less cholesterol per serving
Reduced cholesterol: At least 25 per cent less cholesterol per serving than the regular version
Sugar free: Less than 500mg of sugar per serving
Reduced sugar: At least 25 per cent less sugar per serving than the regular version
High fiber: 5g or more fiber per serving
Good source of fiber: 2.5-4.9g of fiber per serving
Remember to look beyond the claims when you're selecting groceries. A product that is labeled fat free may still be loaded with high fructose corn syrup to enhance taste.
Always check the nutrition facts label to find out the amounts of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, and more. Here are some of the items listed that you’ll want to pay close attention to.
The serving size is listed at the top of the label. While a food item may appear low in fat or calories, you might notice that the serving size is tiny. Keep this in mind when measuring portions.
Calories provide a measurement of how much energy you obtain after eating a serving size of a specific food.
The nutrients listed on a food label refer to total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates (including fiber and added sugars), protein, vitamin A, C, calcium and iron. Other nutrients may be included if the manufacturer decides to do so.
Percent daily values
These listings provide an estimate of the percentage of a nutrient from one serving in typical 2000-calorie diet.
• If a food provides 5 per cent or less of a nutrient, it’s considered a poor source of that nutrient.
• Foods that provide 10-20 per cent of your daily-recommended amount of a nutrient are a good source of that nutrient.
• If a food provides more than 20 percent, it’s considered high in that nutrient.
The ingredient list is always ordered from most prominent ingredient to the least. In other words, if the first item on the ingredient list is sugar, the food contains more sugar than any other ingredient. Beware of foods that list sugar (including high fructose corn syrup or sucrose), fats, oils or salt as one of their first two ingredients. These are not your healthiest choices.
Dr. Joey Shulman DC is the author of Healthy Sin Food – Decadence without the Guilt (Penguin 2009). For more information, please visit www.drjoey.com.