Sometimes reading those labels is just confusing. That’s because the food manufacturers aren’t always forthcoming with the complete information. So, here are some of the terms that you’ll see on labels, and their definition.
This means that the food comes from a vegetable source and not an animal. This doesn’t mean fat-free or even low-fat. A common example is vegetable oil that is a heart-healthier type of fat, but still 100% fat calories.
This food label can be found on meat, dairy and eggs, but this way of farming is not always as it seems. What consumers may not know and won’t see on their “free range” foods is that the USDA regulations only apply to poultry.
Free range beef, pork and other non-poultry animals were allowed to live outdoors, but their products are not regulated by the USDA. Keep in mind that just because it’s free range doesn’t necessarily mean it’s organic; unless it’s labeled free range AND organic, free range animals may be fed non-organic fed that could contain animal byproducts and hormones.
This can be very misleading, as it insinuates that the chicken was killed the day before, or the “freshly squeezed” orange juice was prepared that day. The label “fresh” simply means that it was not frozen or is uncooked, but many of these products are allowed to be chilled or kept on ice to keep them from spoiling.
Many foods claim to be “heart healthy,” but don’t have FDA approval or scientific evidence to support such claims. These types of “heart healthy” labels mislead consumers into thinking they will improve their heart health by eating this particular food.
At supermarkets this could mean anything from “grown in your state” to “arrived at the store within seven hours”
The food has less than 3 grams fat per serving. Watch your portion size; if one portion is 8 crackers and you eat half the box, your snack becomes high in fat. Also, keep in mind, that while it may be low in fat, it may also be loaded with sugar or sodium that won’t be highlighted on the front of the box.
Must contain half the salt of the company’s regular version and have no extra salt added. Look for this claim on processed, canned and packaged foods. To lower the salt content of canned beans or veggies, rinse them through a strainer until the water runs clear.
Made with Whole Grains
You’ve probably seen this on bread, crackers or rice products. Many of these whole grain products are actually made with refined wheat flour and maybe a small percentage of whole grains. Always check the ingredients list. Unless “whole grains” is one of the first ingredients or if you see “enriched wheat flour,” it’s likely that the product contains a small percentage of whole grains.
When a food label says “light” as in “extra light olive oil,” consumers are misled to think that a product is light in fat or the fat content has been cut in half. Unless the product says reduced-fat, “light” is generally referring to a lighter color of the original product, such as light-colored olive oil.
This has no firm definition. Read the label to see if the product has any chemical ingredients, as many processors feel that high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, and other unnatural additives are natural. Also, keep in mind that salt and saturated fats are natural. Always check the ingredients list to know exactly what’s in your food.
No Sugar Added/Unsweetened
This means that there has been no white sugar added. However, it may contain naturally present sugar. For example, jam is concentrated fruit sugar while unsweetened fruit juice is fruit sugar and water. Although sugar may not be added to either, they are both sugar.
Standards set by the government. In these standards, the use of conventional pesticides (including insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides) is not allowed. Animals must be raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. And, in most countries, organic produce may not be genetically modified.
It contains half the fat of the company’s regular version. Keep in mind that this does not mean low calorie.
The current labeling laws allow foods with less than one-half gram of trans fats per serving to round down to “0” grams on the label. But, small amounts of “0” can add up quickly. Consider, that if you eat 3 servings of “0” trans fats, you could have 1.5 grams of trans fat in a sitting.
Here’s a great site for how to read those egg packages
Here’s a site for avoiding GMOs