Read the labels to define healthy foods

| August 5, 2020 1:00 AM

What do common food label terms such as “fat free” or “reduced fat” actually mean?

A while back, Iwas at one of our local grocery stores and they were handing out samples of a breakfast drink — one which contained high fructose corn syrup … I question why anyone would willingly attempt to start their day off “right” with sugar?

Consumers rely on Nutrition Facts labels for important information about the nutritional contents of packaged foods. Understanding what nutrients are in the foods you eat is essential to ensuring that you reap the benefits of a balanced and healthy diet. Once you understand how to read Nutrition Facts labels, you can use them as a guide to planning healthier meals.

Before you purchase any product — know what you are purchasing.

• Calorie-free: Contains less than 5 calories per serving

• Fat-free: Contains less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving

• Fortified: A nutrient that is not naturally present in a food has been added

• Good source of fiber: Contains 2.5 — 4.9 grams of fiber per serving

• High fiber: Contains 5 grams of fiber or more per serving (Foods making high-fiber claims must meet the definition for low fat, or the level of total fat must appear next to the high-fiber claim)

• Lite: Contains 1/3 the calories or 1/2 the fat per serving of the original version or a similar product

• Low calories: Contains 1/3 the calories of the original version or a similar product

• Low-fat: Contains less than 3 grams of fat per serving

• Low-sodium: Contains less than 140 mgs of sodium per serving n Lower fat: Contains at least 25 percent less per serving than the reference food. (An example might be reduced fat cream cheese, which would have at least 25 percent less fat than original cream cheese.)

• More or added fiber: Contains at least 2.5 grams more per serving than the reference food

• No calories: Contains less than 5 calories per serving n No fat: Contains less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving

• No preservatives added: Contains no added chemicals to preserve the product. Some of these products may contain natural preservatives

• No preservatives: Contains no preservatives (chemical or natural)

• No salt or salt free: Contains less than 5 mgs of sodium per serving

• Reduced fat: Contains at least 25 percent less per serving than the reference food. (An example might be reduced fat cream cheese, which would have at least 25 percent less fat than original cream cheese.)

• Reduced sugar: Contains at least 25 percent less sugar per serving than the reference food

• Salt-free: Contains less than 5 mgs of sodium per serving

• Sugar-free: Contains less than 1/2 gram of sugar per serving Comparison between similar products or brands

When the serving sizes of different products are similar, you can use the percentDV to make comparisons between them. Comparing the values of similar products shows which product has more or less of a particular nutrient and which product will best meet your individual needs.

Nutrient content and marketing claims

You can use the percentDV to distinguish one nutritional claim from another, such as “reduced fat,” “lite,” or “nonfat.” For example, you can compare the percentDVs for Total Fat in a few different food products to see which one is higher or lower in fat and make your purchasing decision based on these specific facts.

Creating balance and adding variety to your diet

You don’t have to give up a favorite food to eat a healthy diet. You can use the percentDV to make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day. If a food you like is high in fat, you can balance it with foods that are low in fat at other times of the day.

What is percent Daily Value or percent DV?

Percent Daily Value (percentDV) is a reference number based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance. The values were developed to help consumers determine if a food contains a lot or a little of a specific nutrient.

The percent DV listed on Nutrition Facts labels tells adults what percentage of the DV is provided by 1 serving. Percent DVs are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your required Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

According to the FDA, DVs actually comprise two sets of reference values for nutrients: Daily Reference Values, or DRVs, and Reference Daily Intakes, or RDIs. But these two sets are “behind the scenes” in food labeling; only the Daily Value will appear on the label to make label reading less confusing.

A general rule of thumb for percent DV is less than 5 percent is low and over 20 percent is high.

It’s very easy to take responsibility for what you put in your mouth. Healthy choices are simple — all you have to do is “read” the label. The decision is yours.

Natalie Dreger is a certified fitness trainer. She can be reached at nataliedreger1@gmail.com.