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June 5, 2013

In the adventure of eating local foods I have found I have greatly decreased processed foods from my diet. While preparing whole foods for meals takes more time in the kitchen, it takes less time at the grocery store.

I avoid reading in the supermarket aisles.

I’m not talking about the magazines……..I’m talking about labels!

The Nutrition Facts label, required by the Food and Drug Administration on most packaged foods and beverages, provides detailed information about a food’s nutrient content, such as the amount of fat, sodium and fiber it has.

Knowing how to read food labels is especially important if you have health conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and need to follow a special diet. It also makes it easier to compare similar foods to see which is a healthier choice. The more practice you get reading food labels, the better you can become in using them as a tool to plan your healthy, balanced diet.

Sample Label for Macaroni & Cheese
 #1. Start Here with the serving size. Title and Serving Size Information section of label, with number of servings.
 #2. Calories from Fat. Calorie section of label, showing number of calories per serving and calories from fat.
 #3. Limit These Nutrients: Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium. Total Fat, Saturated Fat Cholesterol, Sodium with Total Carbohydrate section of label, with quantities and % daily values.  #6. Quick Guide to %DV.
 #4. Get Enough of These Nutrients: Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron. Remaining Carbohydrates, including Dietary Fiber and Sugars, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron section of label with % daily values, and quantities for fiber, sugar and protein. #6. Quick Guide to %DV: 5% or less is Low / 20% or more is High.
 #5. The Footnote, or Lower part of the Nutrition Facts Label. Footnote section of label, indicating quantities of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, and dietary fiber for 2000 and 2500 calorie diets.

image of circle 1 The Serving Size: Knowing the amount of food that is healthy for you is the first step. The nutritional information given on the label is based on this portion size.

Circle 2 Calories (and Calories from Fat): Calories is a way to analyze the amount of energy a food provides. The issue about obesity is not only that we are consuming too much food, but we are not using the energy it provides, so it converts to fat. If we moved more, exercised more, the food we consume is used more efficiently.

circle 3circle 4 The Nutrients: How Much?: Basically, the label provides information about the unhealthy part of the food being described and its healthy component.

circle 5 Understanding the Footnote on the Bottom of the Nutrition Facts Label: This area provides information regarding the amount of average daily nutrition the food provides.

circle 6 The Percent Daily Value (%DV): This percentage tells you how much of your nutritional needs are provided, based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet.  Like most people, you may not know how many calories you consume in a day. But you can still use the %DV as a frame of reference whether or not you consume more or less than 2,000 calories.

This information has been provided by the FDA and more information is available here.

Comparing the preparation of a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and a homemade recipe is interesting. Being able to chose and control the components of the recipe is a big factor to nutritional health.  Here is the nutritional comparison:
One piece of information that is not currently offered the presence of GMOs to the Food Nutrition Label. It has been a pretty epic David versus Goliath battle with concerned consumers and farm advocate groups, some food manufacturers and health organizations against the major corporations that develop the GMO seeds and the food corporations who manufacture products using those crops.

ow that the State of Connecticut has passed a GMO labeling law, perhaps the dominoes will begin to fall and it will become a national standard soon. Personally, I hope it will start being labeled. It is one more piece of information that will help me decide to include a food item sold in the supermarket on my family’s table. Until then, and even after, whole foods will continue to have a growing role in the food we put into our bodies.

Purchasing from The Wild Ramp Market permits me to KNOW MY FARMER which lets me ask questions of how anything is produced. That sounds healthy to me!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2013 2:31 pm

    I did a lot of label reading while I was on the ultra low fat diet prior to gall bladder surgery – I don’t eat a lot of processed food, but had to check carefully on crackers and condiments. Because of the nature of my situation, I was focussed on the fat content (particularly saturated fat), aiming for 5% DV. It took me a couple of weeks to realize how important it was to check the serving size in conjunction with that percent, though! Obviously, manufacturers are counting on consumers to do just what I did, because there are a lot of cracker out there with low values for the fat line – but how many crackers added up to 5% varied enormously. I also learned, of course, just how much fat sneaks into our diets, even when we think we’re eating healthily.

  2. June 5, 2013 8:30 pm

    I think it is interesting that one of the arguments that the companies who are fighting GMO labeling say it would be too expensive, but new labeling laws have been handled just fine. Methinks there is another reason.

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