Dr. Akua Woolbright is the Senior Healthy Eating and Wellness Educator for Whole Foods Market. You can read more about her here.
Dr. Woolbright was part of DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital’s “Say No To Soda Pop” Lunch Break seminars. She spoke about this particular topic, “Decoding Food Labels”, on Wednesday, November 28th in the auditorium of Sinai-Grace Hospital. To read more about the Hospital’s “Say No To Soda Pop” initiative, you can visit Dr Eadie’s blog here.
Decoding Food Labels…
*Adapted from the work of Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN*
RULE #1: Never believe anything on the front of the package…EVER.
RULE #2: With the exception of the points below, ignore the “Nutrition Facts panel” and focus mainly on the ingredients list.
Fat – daily requirement to avoid essential fatty acid deficiency is only 3 to 5%; typical American intake is 35%.
Calculate the fat by dividing calories from fat by the # of calories.
- 20% or less for packaged products
- Avoid/minimize saturated fat from animal sources
- Avoid/minimize saturated fat from vegetable sources
- Avoid man-made vegetable saturated fat.
Sodium – daily requirement is approximately 500 mg/day; Average American intake is 3000-5000 mg/d. Only 10% of sodium comes from home cooking & at the dining table. Another 77% comes from processed foods & restaurants. One teaspoon of salt has 2200 mg of sodium!
- Aim for 1 calorie : 1 mg of sodium (maximum)
- 100 calories = 100 mg of sodium
Sugars – Nutrition facts panel lists “total” sugars only; cannot determine natural sugars versus added sugars. Goal is to avoid added sugars (or avoid added sugars in the first 3 to 5 ingredients). Therefore, check ingredients list (listed in descending order of weight). Just a heads up: evaporated cane juice has had the water “evaporated” out therefore the weight of this ingredient slides down the ingredient list!
Carbohydrates – Refined carbohydrates make up >90% of the intake in the U.S. The Nutrition Facts panel only lists “Total carbohydrate,” which does not tell the reader anything interesting! Therefore, go to the ingredients list and look for “whole” or “sprouted.” Avoid: wheat, white, durum, semolina, bleached, unbleached, Artichoke & enriched flours.
Fiber – Aim for products that carry >3 grams of fiber per 100 calories.