The Hidden World of Nutrition Labels

After watching the second lesson you should have a better understanding of how to count carbohydrates. If you haven’t, I highly recommend you review that lesson plan before you continue reading this blog.

Nutrition labels have been around in the United States since 1973, when the FDA published the first regulation that required the nutrition labeling of certain foods. At that time, they were told to include the number of calories; grams of protein, carbohydrate, and fat; and the percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (U.S. RDA) of protein, vitamins A and C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and iron. Sodium, saturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids could also be included at the manufacturer’s discretion. In the last 50 years there have been many changes in regards to what the nutrition labels show like servings sizes, nutrient content claims, and implied claims. Thanks to regulations from the FDA we now have more information available to us at the grocery store.

I can’t tell you how many times I bought products at the store that look like great low carb options, but in the end was trickery. There are so many products out there that claim to be good for you, but in fact are not. So please utilize the nutrition label before putting anything in your cart. A great exercise for you to do the next few weeks when your grocery shopping is to review the nutrition label.

Practice counting your carbs and verifying your carb intake by actually knowing what you’re eating. Don’t be fooled by products claiming to be “low carb”, “Only 1g net carb”, “no added sugars”, “Keto friendly”, “sugar free”, “all natural”, and the list could go on. It’s easy to get fooled with the hidden world revolved around nutrition labels. So here are some helpful tips when grocery shopping:

  1. Be cautious of low carb desserts, granola bars, snacks, or candy bars. It’s a common marketing tool to advertise that they are low carb or have very few net carbs on the cover, but in reality they sweeten their products with sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohol is a substitute for sugar but unfortunately has the same effect on your blood sugar. This type of advertising where they have deceptive labeling is completely legal according to labeling guidelines. See keep your eyes peeled for sugar alcohols like Xylitol, Erythritol, Soritol, or Malitol. Brands to avoid that use sugar alcohols are: Atkins, Quest, Elevation
  2. Be cautious of products that claim to be zero grams of sugar because most likely it’s sweetened with fruit concentrate. While that may sound okay, fruit concentrate is actually fruit that has been heated and reduced with the skin and fiber strained out. This only leaves the liquid which is the natural sugars from the fruit. To learn more about this process from NPR, click here. This will still affect your blood sugars and introduce sugar back into your diet.
  3. Look at the ingredient list every time! A common problematic food we see is cauliflower crust pizzas sold in the store. While there is cauliflower in the recipe, the main ingredient is usually a flour like rice flour. That ingredient will increase the carbohydrates and reflect that under the total carbohydrates found on the nutrition label.
  4. Always look at the serving size. While it may show on the nutrition label that it has 4g of total carbohydrates, the serving size may be 2 tablespoons. When it comes to sauces or dips this is a common issue, and no one just has one serving. Don’t be afraid to measure things out in the beginning until you get a better handle on what foods you can have.

The beginning of this diet is very important, because it sets the basics for the future. Make sure you get comfortable with the nutrition label now, to avoid building bad habits that you’ll have to correct later on. As always if you have any questions on a food product or recipe. Give us a call or bring it in when you come to visit.

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