It’s not too sweet the way we are sabotaged at the stores, bombarded with new foods with labels claiming “low sugar”, “reduced calorie”, “no added sugar”, and the best of all “healthy”. The label claims have become so out of hand that the USDA actually had to designate what each of these claims mean. Let’s focus on the claims related to carbohydrates and sugars.
|Sugar Free, Zero Sugar, No Sugar, Without Sugar, Trivial Source of Sugar, Negligible Source of Sugar, Dietarily Insignificant Source of Sugar||Less than 0.5g of sugar per serving.|
|Reduced Sugar, Less Sugar||At least 25% less sugar than the original item.|
|No Sugar Added, Without Added Sugar||No sugar or ingredients containing sugar were added during processing. Must state if food is not “Low Calorie” or “Reduced Calorie”.|
Chart from: Myfooddiary.com
But you can’t choose your foods solely on the appeal of the front of the package, you must check out the side panel packed with nutrition information. When it comes to carbohydrates and sugar it is important to focus on three key areas:
- Ingredient list: Found near the bottom of the label, listing ingredients in the food from biggest to smallest. First you need to know what you are looking for, because sugar can be just sugar or one of its aliases such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey and maple syrup. The key is checking to see if any of the sugar words are listed as 1 of the first 3 or so ingredients. If you see it, it would probably a good idea to stop there and set down the package.
Here is an example from the FDA, comparing two yogurts.
Plain Yogurt – contains no added sugar
Ingredients: cultured pasteurized grade A nonfat milk, whey protein concentrate, pectin, carrageenan.
Fruit Yogurt – contains added sugar
Ingredients: cultured grade A reduced fat milk, apple, high fructose corn syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, natural flavors, and pectin. Contains active yogurt and l. Acidophilus cultures.
2. Carbohydrates, Fiber and Sugars: These three categories are listed in the nutrition facts portion of the label. Check first the amount of fiber. The more fiber, the better – of course! When it comes to foods rich in carbohydrates such as cereal, pasta, crackers, breads, etc, the goal is to eat foods with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving.
Next check out the sugars. It is important to distinguish if the sugar is added as we found by reading the ingredients listed or if the sugar is natural as in milk and fruits. The goal is to keep your added sugar intake low, so if it’s not a fruit or milk product, shoot for <5 grams (less than 5 grams)of sugar per serving.
Most importantly keep an eye on the total carbohydrates. Remember it is the quality of the carbohydrates that is important, so if the breakdown looks off balance between too much sugar and not enough fiber, it may be wise to keep looking.
3. Serving Size and Serving per Container: This little tidbit often gets lost in the shuffle of the food label, but it really is a key component that can help you keep within your nutrition goals. For example the serving size is 1 cup and servings per container are 2. This indicates that if you eat the 1 cup serving you will receive the information listed on the nutrition facts panel, but if you eat the entire package of 2 servings, you will receive double the nutrition facts. This is an extremely large detail to consider when buying food or drinks.
Another example: 16 oz bottle of orange juice – serving size 8 oz, servings per container 2
If you drink the 8 oz serving you will receive 110 calories, 28 grams Carbs and 22 grams sugar
If you drink the entire 16 oz bottle, you will receive 220 calories, 56 grams Carbs and 44 grams sugar
The key is sticking to your portions sizes!!
By Emily Barr, MS, RD, CNSC
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