Healthy vs. Hype, Food Packaging Guide

November 17, 2009 7:32:24 PM PST
Some nutritional claims on food packages are now under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is concerned the labels may mislead shoppers.In the hunt for food that's good for you, you may be swayed by smart choices check marks, or "whole grain guaranteed," or a heart healthy logo.

Consumer Reports cautions that what's on the front of the package may not be a good guide to what's inside.

Consumer Reports Lisa Lee Freeman said, "Some seals of approval are made up by the companies themselves. And they may pay for other seals that are devised by outside organizations. The end result is very misleading for consumers."

For example, Froot Loops has had the smart choices check mark - even though it's 41% sugar by weight. As for the "whole grain guaranteed" claim, Trix cereal does have whole-grain corn. But don't think that means its high in fiber.

"You've got to carefully read the nutrition facts on the package. As you'll see with Trix, it has only one gram of fiber per serving. An excellent source has at least five grams," said Freeman.

Also be aware that claims like "good source of calcium" means the product only has to supply ten percent of your daily needs - the same as just a third of a cup of milk.

A can of Hormel chili says it has "less sodium," but it still has a lot. Just one cup of the chili has 30% of the recommended daily amount of sodium - way too much.

Freeman said, "A shortcut to help you judge for yourself is to look at the daily values of things that aren't so good for you - like sodium and saturated fat. You want to make sure that they're 5% or less per serving."

So to make sure you're getting more of the good stuff and less of the bad, carefully check out the nutrition facts label.

If you do decide to buy something with a daily value that's higher than five percent, Consumer Reports suggests -- you plan your other meals around it. That way you can stay within the recommended guidelines for the day.


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