Article written

  • on 03.06.2009
  • at 08:54 PM
  • by Jessy Troy

Mumbo Jumbo on a Can of Gumbo


Food LabelsOne of the most important, yet unheeded aspects of healthy eating is the nutritional labels on the outer packaging of most retail foods sold in the United States. The “Nutrition Facts” list is a federally mandated requirement on the labeling of consumer food products.

The Food and Drug Administration began requiring nutritional fact labels on almost all foods, except for meat and poultry, in 1990 with the enactment of the Nutrition Labeling & Education Act. The labels do no good, however, for the majority of consumers, because they do not understand how to read them and use them effectively.

In his article in the May 13, 2009, issue of the Chicago Tribune online, entitled “Reading Food Labels Key to Good Diet“, Robert Channick, Special Contributor, relates advice from Isa Carani, a registered dietitian who explained the importance of understanding the nutritional labels in order to be aware of what you are eating, and maintain good health. In a presentation at a health clinic in Highland Park, Illinois, Carani resolved typical perplexities relating to the enigmatic information on the labels.

Carani explains that the foremost point to observe is serving size. Since many containers of food hold more than one serving, it is important to be able to glean the actual figures for the amount the person is eating. He also addresses a standard question about the meaning of “percent daily value”. In essence, it is the ratio of the nutrients in the food product to the total amount of nutrients needed in a typical day. Carani warns about the significant factors to stay away from, such as sodium, or salt intake, and the old standard, calories.

Channick explains in his article the importance of people with chronic illnesses like diabetes taking care of themselves through healthy eating habits. When asked if there were any specific components diabetics, in particular, should be wary of, Carani clears up a misconception that diabetics should be observing the amount of “sugar” they consume. He affirms it is actually carbohydrates diabetics should avoid. He points out caloric intake will decrease with a low-carb diet. Carani says the nutritional prescripts diabetics must adhere to are actually considered part of a fairly healthy diet, and it could be suitable for most otherwise healthy people.

Any program or plan that addresses the need for information for the American public is a good thing, but only if it works. If people don’t know how to read the Nutrition Facts lists, then they are essentially just wasted and ink, paper and time on behalf of food packaging companies. If the average consumer is either mystified by the labels or simply doesn’t care, then they are pointless. It would indeed be advantageous to consumers if doctors, dietitians and other health care personnel took the time to explain to their patients the realities of good dietary health.

Image courtesy sxc/vancanjay

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