The Diet Detective: Understand Your Food Labels


 
Fat Claims
 
What it Means:
Fat Free:
A fat-free food must have less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.

Low Fat: To qualify as low-fat, a food must contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving.

Reduced or Less Fat: To qualify as a reduced-fat food, the product must have at least 25 percent less fat per serving than the original version.
 
Why it Matters:
Fat calories are the most costly at nine calories per gram, compared with four calories per gram for carbs and protein. But we need fat in our diet, just not too much of it.
Back in the day, low fat and fat free were all the rage, but no more. We now know that fat-free foods are not either necessarily healthy or low in calories.
 
Saturated Fat Claims
 
What it Means:
Saturated Fat Free: Less than 0.5 grams saturated fat and less than 0.5 grams trans fatty acids per RACC or per serving if the serving size is larger.
 
Low in Saturated Fat: 1 gram or less per RACC and 15 percent or less of calories from saturated fat (or for meals and main dishes, 1 gram or less per 100 grams and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat).
 
Reduced or Less Saturated Fat: At least 25 percent less saturated fat per RACC than a comparable food without reduced saturated fat (or for meals and main dishes, at least 25 percent less saturated fat per 100 grams).
 
Why it Matters:
Even though an analysis appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease, there is still an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that says consumption of saturated fat is unhealthy.
 
Sugar Claims
 
What it Means:
Sugar Free: Sugar free means less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving. But this doesn't necessarily mean the food is healthy or great for weight loss. It could mean that the food manufacturer has added more fat or sodium to improve the taste and compensate for the lack of sugar. In that case, all you'd be doing is swapping one unhealthy nutrient for another.
 
Low Sugar: There is no definition.
 
Reduced Sugar:
At least 25 percent less sugar per RACC than a comparable food without reduced sugar (or for meals and main dishes, at least 25 percent less sugar per 100 grams). This claim may not be used on dietary supplements or vitamins and minerals.
 
No Added Sugar: "No added sugars" and "without added sugars" claims are allowed if no sugar or sugar-containing ingredient (for example, fruit juices, applesauce or dried fruit) is added during processing or packing. Pay attention though, because this claim is allowed even if the food is not "low calorie" or "reduced calorie."

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