In a previous blog I took on the issue of obesity and oversized,
sugar-laden beverages, as well as the new beverage ban law in New York City. For
the dedicated nutrition consumer and blog reader, this is indeed a two-part
scenario: you need to be able to make educated choices about the food you
select, and you are entitled to
accurate information from which to make these choices.
Recently, the same law firms that pursued the tobacco
industry for manipulating nicotine are taking on the Big Foods manufacturers
for inaccuracies concerning nutrition and for misleading ingredient claims.
Specifically, these lawsuits target food products promoted as “natural” or “healthy”
when it fact they are not. This is all taking place against the backdrop of
exploding obesity and expanding waistbands in the United States.
According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, prepared foods contain an average of 8 percent more
calories than their package labels admit to, while restaurant meals contain
a whopping 18 percent more on average.
What I tell my
Keep checking that
nutrition info. I still recommend that you continue to look at the nutrition
information on food packages, so you can use them as a compass for food choices.
First and foremost, pay careful attention to portion size and calorie
content. Soon the FDA will be launching a new front-of-the-package initiative,
whereby nutrition information will be more visible, legible, and hopefully easier
Beware of jargon.
Currently, for example, no legal definition exists for the term “natural” when it’s
used on a food label.
Examine the first
items in the ingredient list. Food components are listed in the order of their
amounts or concentrations. If a fat or a sugar (and watch for synonyms!) is
located as the first, second, or third ingredient, then consider that food to
be largely composed of fat or sugar—and use it sparingly.
Examine the items at
the end of the ingredients list. Next, look at the tail-end of the ingredient
list with an eye for spotting suspect additives. The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) monitors additives for safety and requires that all new
additives undergo testing prior to approval for use; however, some of the
purportedly “safe”‘additives may not be totally worry-free. The experts at Environmental Nutrition, for example, advise that you limit your exposure to the following additives
and preservatives: potassium bromate, BHA and BHT, propyl gallate, sulfites, red
dye No. 3, and FD&C yellow dye No. 5 (Tartrazine).
Of course, the best way to avoid these pitfalls is to eat a diet made up predominantly of whole foods, one based largely on fresh
fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unprocessed meats fish