All Posts In Label Decoder

How High is “High-Fiber”? (Nutrition Buzzwords, Demystified)

by in Label Decoder, August 4, 2014

cereal
Ever wondered what that “high-fiber” cereal is actually providing in the way of fiber? (And is it less impressive than the box labeled “fiber-rich”?) Or ever considered how many calories are in a “low-calorie” sports drink?

In order for a food company to splash words like “high in fiber” across its packaging, the product must adhere to specific guidelines established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA also regulates claims at the other end of the spectrum: Foods that boast being “low in” or “free” of something (such as sodium), must also meet requirements. Here’s a cheat sheet of what’s behind the buzzwords.

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What to Look for on a Yogurt Label

by in Label Decoder, July 24, 2014

yogurt
The yogurt section in the dairy aisle has been expanding rapidly, with more spins on the creamy delight than you can shake a spoon at. The next time you’re adding yogurt to your shopping cart, here are some things to keep in mind as you scan the label.

Added Sugar
All yogurts contain sugar. Yogurt is made from milk, which contains lactose, a natural sugar found in milk. It’s the added sugar — what the yogurt manufacturer brings to the mix — that buyers need to watch out for. Fruit-flavored yogurt and honey-flavored yogurt have more sugar than plain because of added sugars. If you read the ingredient list, you will see words like fructose and evaporated cane sugar, both of which are simply different names for sugar. A good rule of thumb: If a yogurt contains more than 20 grams of sugar per serving, it’s more of a dessert than a healthful snack.

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How Much Fruit Should You Eat?

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, February 14, 2013

blueberries
The serving size for any food isn’t “one size fits all.” It depends on numerous factors like the food group, shape and nutrients provided. I’ll layout your standard fruit serving sizes and delve into the nitty-gritty details of some not-so-traditional foods (like those squeezable fruit pouches) so you’ll know what one serving of fruit actually is.

The Recommendations
According to the USDA’s MyPlate, any fruit or 100% fruit juice can make up a serving of fruit. Fresh, canned, frozen, freeze-dried, dried, whole, cut up and pureed fruit all count. How much fruit you need each day varies by gender, age, and level of physical activity. Here are the guidelines for men and women ages 19 and older:

Women:

  • 19 to 30 years: 2 cups
  • 31 years and older: 1 ½ cups

Men:

  • 19 years and older: 2 cups

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Label Decoder: Carrageenan

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, March 13, 2012
dairy aisle
Carrageenan is on the ingredients list of many products in the dairy aisle, but what is it?

This ingredient is found in foods like ice cream, jelly and even infant formula. Find out what it does and if it’s safe to eat.

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Label Decoder: Diacetyl

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, March 9, 2012
popcorn
What's this movie night treat made with?

There’s no better snack for movie night at home than a bucket of buttery popcorn. But you may think twice about the microwave stuff after we tell you about and ingredient it contains, diacetyl, and the trouble it has caused.

What is it?
Diacetyl was first synthesized more than 80 years ago and can now be found in about 6,000 food products. It’s used as a preservative in unsalted butter to lengthen shelf life, but higher amounts are added to butter-flavored products like microwave popcorn, cooking oils and sprays and margarine.

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Talking to the Experts: Food Label Guru Bonnie Taub-Dix

by in Ask the Experts, Grocery Shopping, Healthy Tips, Label Decoder, March 7, 2011

book

Want the inside scoop on label reading? We spoke to registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of the new label-decoding book Read It Before You Eat It. Check out her responses to Healthy Eats’ reader questions, and find out the biggest mistakes shoppers make.

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Food Labeling: Beware the “Health” Halo

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, January 7, 2011

Food Labels

Many folks read food labels to gain better insight on the foods they choose. However, with so many claims plastered on labels, things can get really confusing. Even worse, food companies use these claims to push certain products and make you think they’re healthier than they really are. We’ve rounded up the top 10 food label boobie traps.

10 food label tricks »

Food Label Savvy: Whole-Grain Crackers

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, September 9, 2010

whole-wheat crackers

Food labels can be so misleading that you (almost) need a nutrition degree to decode them.  But don’t worry – we’re putting our expertise at work to help clear up some of the confusion. First up, we’re taking on the snack aisle. Here’s what to look for (and what to avoid) when buying whole-grain crackers.

Decoding whole-grain cracker labels »

5 Food Additives To Avoid

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, August 3, 2010

artificial sweetner

Our food is laden with additives, many times in order to preserve it. But some of the disadvantages of these substances outweigh the benefits. Here are the top 5 that made our list — we’ll let you decide if they’re worth it.

See all 5 additives to avoid »

Label Decoder: Olestra

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, July 23, 2010

potato chips

When I was in graduate school, some of my fellow dietetic students tracked down one of the first stores where the nonfat fried chips were being sold. The employee that answered the phone explained how he’d downed an entire package and had a horrible stomach ache (though he was a bit more descriptive of his symptoms). From that day on, I knew chips fried in Olestra weren’t all they were cracked up to be.

Get the scoop on Olestra »