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Misleading Food Labels

From It’s Not A Diet, It’s Creative Eating !

We’ve previously discussed how important it is for us to read food labels for our health and weight loss efforts. I even went as far to suggest that we only purchase food items that have a food label on regular basis (treat type foods including muffins should only be bought if they have a label, it’s a tool!) if we are trying to lose weight. After all, ignorance is not bliss. But, what about a package, a food package that is, which is misleading? What do I mean?

The Misleading Package

Low Carbohydrate egg salad: I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this food description recently at my favorite salad bar. Egg salad described as low in carbohydrates! Eggs are a high protein food along with fat contained in the yolk, so when we mash them with mayo, we have protein and fat. My guess is that since so many of us are watching our carbohydrates these days, the description was given to interest us in egg salad that doesn’t contain carbohydrates unless we make an egg salad sandwich with bread. However, the average caloric value for ½ cup of egg salad does contain about 300 calories! Better yet, mash the eggs with low fat cottage.

Low Fat Fig Newton’s: Fig Newton cookies on the average contain 1gram of ) 78 ) it’s not a diet, it’s creative eating! fat, which is 9 calories. So, if our full fat cookie contains 60 calories, our fat free version contains 51. Does this sound like a big saving? But many of us think that we can eat more of the low fat version since they are listed as low in fat, which our regular fig cookie is any way. Eat more, weigh more!

1% or 2% fat milk: When most of my new clients read a label on a carton of 1% milk, they think the 1% fat refers to the amount of fat by calories. However, it actually refers to the amount of fat in milk by volume! Big difference. 1 cup of 1% milk equals 100 calories, which contains 3 grams of fat or 27 calories out of 100! This amounts to 27% fat. Here we can see that reading the nutritional label is very important.

99% Fat Free meat: All meat products are regulated by the Department of Agriculture (same as our milk product above), and just like our milk product, our 99% fat free refers to 99% fat free by weight, not calories (just as our milk referred to 1% by liquid volume). What is important here is for us to read the nutrition facts label on the back of the package and check how many fat grams are in each serving (multiply 9 calories by the number of fat grams in each serving to arrive at the amount of fat calories in each serving!).

Net Carbohydrates: Many times I’ve seen a misleading package that needs a calculator! Here’s the simplest way for us to calculate the total amount of carbohydrates, whether they are from a natural healthy source such as fruit, or from added sugars regardless of what the package states: “If the Nutrition Facts label states that a serving of the food contains 18 grams of total carbohydrate, we would subtract the fiber (ex. 6 grams) and half of the sugar alcohols if any listed, say 6g (ex. 3 grams) from the 18 grams to come up with an intake of 9 grams. (According to the FDA)”. We should not take the word of the front package.

Protein Performance Sports Bars: What is misleading here is this; carbohydrates are the fuel source that gives us energy for a work out enhancing our performance, not protein! Protein’s function is to repair and rebuild our tissues after the workout. When we read protein, most of us think of staying lean, and when we read performance, we think of high energy. If we are choosing a sports bar as a pre-workout snack for energy, let’s choose one that has mostly carbohydrate for the same amount of calories, if we want to fuel our workout while staying lean and mean! And remember to give enough time for digestion.

Healthy May Not Always Be: I remember partaking in a taste test of a “healthy” low fat, low calorie cupcake at my local gourmet supermarket, and I definitely found it to be tasty. However, upon closer scrutiny I read palm oil under the ingredients. Palm oil is a saturated fat, not a healthy fat! So I proceeded to inquire as to why palm oil was used as an ingredient in the cup cakes and muffins, which were being promoted as healthy. I was told that palm oil was the type of fat needed for consistency. Now, while a small amount of palm oil won’t hurt us, it is not healthy and it is generally used in baking because it is cheaper than other healthier fats. Let’s not eat too many processed treats including cupcakes!

So, here we have a few examples of a misleading package. It’s up to us to look beyond the package for our health and weight management efforts (it is an effort worth it, isn’t it?).

About The Author

June M. Lay M.S. – Health Coach

Nutritionist & Weight Loss Specialist

Women’s Exercise Specialist

Master’s Degree in Women’s Health, Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine

B.S. Behavioral Science, Behavioral/Cognitive Counselor and Health Coach, NSHC

A.C.S.M. Certified Health & Fitness Specialist

American Dietetic Association, Nutritionist A.A.S. & Certified Adult Weight Management Specialist

Medical Exercise Specialist The American Academy of Health and Fitness Rehabilitative Professionals

Lifestyle Columnist,,

Health Writer and Published Author of It’s NOT a Diet, it’s Creative Eating”!

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