While wandering the grocery store you’ve probably seen labels that read, “organic,” “made with 100% whole wheat,” and “No Trans fat.” If you are a little puzzled by these claims, especially if they come on a package of cookies, than consider this crash course in grocery store labels.
Products that claim to be organic must fit a certain criteria. Sometimes they don’t have to be comprised of all organic ingredients, just a few key organic ingredients. However, these products should lack the preservatives used in non-organic products. This makes them ‘healthier’ for you, but they have a limited shelf-life. Be sure to check the packages for expiration dates. If you are in the produce section and see organic labels, be sure that the produce is not situated next to or below regular ‘chemically’ covered produce; the chemicals to preserve the non-organic produce can easily transfer to the organically grown product this way and ‘contaminate’ it, making it not worth the extra price. Be wary also of snack products that are labeled organic. These items may contain as much sugar as the regular variety of snack products. Compare labels and see if it is worth the extra price to buy organic products. On the whole they are better for you than regular items, but need to be eaten in moderation as well.
Light, Low fat, Fat Free
These labels are designed for you to reach for them over a ‘regular’ item, thinking you are getting something you can eat more of for less calories and guilt. The problem with this is that there may be more harmful ingredients contained therein than you bargained for. An item that is labeled ‘light,’ such as light ice creams, should have less calories (and most of the time less fat) than their regular type of comparable item. Watch out for ‘hydrogenated’ things in the ingredient list, which are more harmful for your diet than the higher fat variety.
‘Low fat’ labels indicate that the fat grams are less than comparable regular products. Be sure to compare the nutrition labels to the regular product, however. By this you will find out whether the calories are significantly lower or only a 10-20 calorie difference. Many times you will see that the calories are not very different, and it can be better to get the full fat kind if you want the full flavor of the product. If you are on a low fat diet, not just one with lower calories, than this is the label to look for as well as ‘fat free.’ Fat free products should not contain a significant amount of fat (e.g. 0 grams). Keep in mind that you should only eat these products in their recommended portion sizes or the calories will soon add up to make the low fat amounts hardly matter.
Sugar free items are specifically designed for diabetics. These products are usually not low in fat or calories; they simply are made with an artificial sweetener or sweetened by other natural means (e.g. honey). Don’t purchase these products if you are actually looking for something that is low in calories or fat, or you’ll be in for a big surprise; they often have more fat and calories than sugar versions. But some items, like jam for instance, are lower in calories when it is sugar free.
100% whole grain
Lately there seems to be more products that tell you they are made from 100% whole grain or made with whole grains. You can find them on breads, cereal, and even cookies. So what does this mean exactly? It might not mean anything significant, but there is a way to check. Look at the nutrition label and see if there are 3 grams of fiber or more in each serving. If there isn’t, than it isn’t really a whole grain product, only that in contains some whole grain. This isn’t enough for it to be very healthy. Be sure to check bread labels when they claim to be whole wheat; sometimes they list a serving size as 2 slices and state the fiber grams as 3, but that only means that there is merely 1.5 grams of fiber per slice. Don’t be fooled by whole grain claims if the fiber amount doesn’t back it up. So be sure to check the labels next time you go to the grocery store and know what they mean.