Thanks to new U.S. labeling laws effective in 1994, understanding food labels is much easier than it once was. The Federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act regulations not only require that specific information appear on processed food labels, they also implement improvements in four basic areas: 1. Package claims (which are now federally defined and regulated); 2. Serving sizes, which must be comparable for similar foods; 3. Referring to the % Daily Value column quickly tells the consumer the percentage of a particular nutrient in the food; 4. By consulting the Daily Values, consumers can determine how much (or how little) of the major nutrients they should eat on a daily basis. When checking the ingredients on packaged food, remember that most labels list ingredients in descending order by weight, not by amount. For example, a cereal with four ingredients, of which sugar is the third listed, most likely contains a small percentage of sugar. Labels must now include the total amount of fat, saturated fat and unsaturated fat, although detailing the various types of the latter is optional. Be warned, however, that there’s currently a major information gap in this labeling scheme because Trans Fatty acids (essentially unsaturated fat that’s been transformed into saturated fat through hydrogenation), which may be part of the total fat listed, won’t be classified as saturated. Add the amount of saturated fat and unsaturated fat together-if it doesn’t equal the figure for total fat, the difference can most likely be attributed to trans fatty acids, which essentially translates to saturated fat. Following are many terms found on food labels. Low fat means the amount of fat per serving (or per 100 grams of food) is 3 grams or less; the phrase 90 (or other number) percent fat free may only be used for low fat products. Reduced fat means the product contains 50 percent (or less) of the fat found in the product’s regular version; reduced saturated fat is the same, but only in reference to saturated fat. Low in saturated fat means each serving contains 1 gram (or less) of saturated fat, and the number of calories from that source are not more than 15 percent of the total. Fat free indicates the product has less than % gram of fat per serving, providing there are no added fat or oil ingredients. Reduced cholesterol tells you the product contains 50 percent (or less) of the cholesterol found in the product’s regular version. Low in cholesterol means the cholesterol per serving (or per 100 grams of food) is 20 milligrams or less, and that the saturated fat is 2 grams or less. Cholesterol free means the product (per serving) contains less than 2 milligrams of cholesterol and 2 grams (or less) of saturated fat. Reduced sodium signals at least 75 percent less sodium; low sodium means 140 milligrams or less per serving; very low sodium-35 milligrams sodium per serving; sodium free-less than 5 milligrams per serving. Reduced calorie on a label means there are at least one-third fewer calories than in the product’s regular form; low caloric indicates 40 calories or less per serving, and less than 0.4 calories per gram of food. No sugar added means there’s no table sugar, but there may be other forms of sugar such as Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, or sucrose. Light (or lite) is a virtually meaningless term used in a variety of ways by individual manufacturers. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the only parameter for this term is that it must contain less of something, which means that it can refer to reduced calories, a lighter color or flavor (as with some oils), a fluffy (lighter) texture, or reduced fat, sugar, alcohol, etc. According to the FDA, the words natural flavorings refer to those that are derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, egg, dairy product

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