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Making Sense of the Low Fat / No Fat Food Labels

Are you confused by low fat, reduced fat, no fat, fat free, or low carb? Don't feel bad, you're not alone.

What is the difference between them? Does it matter which you choose? Will you get �slim and trim� by using them? Though legal, these labels are intentionally misleading in regard to the ingredients that are actually in these products, and the perception these labels give the consumer.

Reduced Fat

The official definition of �reduced fat� is: product has at least 25% less fat than the original product. But what if the fat that is reduced to achieve the �reduced fat� designation is monounsaturated, the good fat? And if the total calories are the same, then the manufacturer has probably added more sugar and/or chemicals. Obviously this is not what you would want.

Low Fat

Product contains 3 or less grams of fat per serving. Food companies often compensate for the loss of texture and taste resulting from the removal of fat by adding sugar. Here�s a good example. Ben & Jerry�s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt contains 190 calories composed of 2.5 grams of fat and 36 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream has 160 total calories with 9 grams of fat and 18 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Even though Ben & Jerry�s is a low fat yogurt, it contains 30 more calories and 18 more grams of carbs than Breyers ice cream! You are better off with Breyers.

Fat Free or No Fat

"Fat free" products have less than � gram of fat in a serving. Technically "fat free" means no fat at all�zero�zippo! In reality, fat free is low fat! I consider this phrase to be deceptive.

Low Carb

There are no government regulations as to what could be considered �low carb.� There are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. The simple carbs are things like sugar (table sugar, fruit sugar, honey, etc). These carbs are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and raise blood levels. Fruits are good. Eat plenty of them. However stay away from refined or processed sugars (candies, pies, cakes, table sugar, etc). except for an occasional treat.

Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are things like veggies, sweet potatoes, bran, wheat, brown rice, etc. Eat plenty of these foods as they are slowly absorbed and have a lot of fiber.

There is plenty of room for customer fraud here. One food manufacturer labeled his cookies low carb simply because the serving size was listed as two cookies as compared to the regular cookies� serving size of three.

If I want cookies or cakes, I purchase them at a health food store and make sure that all of the ingredients are 100% organic. Just be sure not to overdo it with portion sizes.

Just because a product says low fat or low carb doesn't mean that you can eat as many as you want. What you have to remember is a calorie is a calorie. Even if a product is legitimately low carb, eating too many will still pack on the pounds. Low carb is not a license to eat more.

". . . So in the end the lesson learned is that we must be cautious of food labeling! Companies are very good at marketing their products around our health concerns as well as manipulating the nutrition guidelines. . . If a food seems too good to be true, it probably is!" (Food Labels: How Do You Know Who's Telling the Truth? Sarah Levi, Community Education Coordinator for Project Mana.)

The USDA's (United States Department of Agriculture) National Organic Program (NOP) regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced.

The USDA Organic seal is the consumer's best assurance of organic quality. It directly relates to food. Products not bearing this seal but yet labeled as 'organic' should be looked at skeptically.

100% Organic

USDA OrganicIn October 2002 the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) devised a standard policy for organic food. This policy does not allow the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, sewage sludge, or several other substances in products bearing the organic label. There are four categories within the organic labeling family. 100 percent organic indicates that all ingredients must be totally organically produced.

Certified Organic

Food product must contain 95 percent or more organically-grown ingredients. The balance of the ingredients must come from non-organic ingredients which have been approved on the National List. These products can display the USDA organic logo.

Made With Organic Ingredients

Product must have 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients. Three of these organic ingredients must be listed on the package. The remaining 30% of non-organic ingredients must be approved on the National List. Cannot bare the USDA organic logo.

Products With Less Than 70% Organic Ingredients

Product ingredients must conform to defined organic regulations and product cannot bear the USDA seal.
Stricter standards for organic meat and milk
Deceptive nutrition claims on the front of food packages
The organic label is compromised

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