Being an informed shopper can be difficult when confronted with many claims, terms, and definitions on food labels. Some terms, such as "organic," have strict rules on their use determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, other terms are more about marketing and advertising than the actual nutritional value.
Below are the definitions of nine commonly misunderstood terms often found on nutritional labels.
- Lean. Meats, poultry, and seafood are labeled “lean” for every 100 grams. Each serving must contain no more than 10 grams of total fat, including fewer than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
- Extra lean. Specifically, used to label meats, poultry, and seafood for every 100 grams. Each serving must contain no more than 5 grams of total fat, including fewer than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
- Low fat. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the food must contain less than 3 grams of fat per serving.
- High, Rich in, or Excellent Source of. These words on a label mean that the food contains 20% or more of the Daily Recommended Value (DRV) of the referenced item.
- Good Source, Contains, or Provides. This means the product contains 10-19% of the DRV. So, "high" is better than "good" when it comes to these food labels.
- Made with real fruit. It can be fruit juice or fruit extract instead. It does not say how much fruit is used so it can be hard to tell. However, ingredients are listed by the volume. A good rule of thumb is that if the fruit is at the bottom of the ingredients list, there probably is a tiny amount in it.
- Natural. This one is tricky. If it is "natural," it must be good for you, right? Not necessarily. Unless the product is meat or eggs, "natural" has no firm definition and is not bound by any regulations. Therefore, "natural" foods may contain unhealthy preservatives, flavor enhancers, or other ingredients that are the least nutritious.
- No sugar added. It may contain large amounts of corn syrup, fructose, or many other sweeteners - which are essentially sugars by other names.
- Reduced sugar. The product must contain 25% less sugar than the original product.
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