Jun 18, 2009

Read Food Labels: Your Health & Fitness Levels Depend on It!

When it comes to grocery shopping, wholesome foods in their natural state are the best choices. But in today's society we are bombarded with man-made and man-manipulated foods and food products! MOST of them are unhealthy, fattening and can be harmful. Keep in mind that many of our foods (even wholesome foods) come in a package and we should take every measure to educate ourselves in what we are about to buy and eat (or drink). READ LABELS! Here are some facts to consider about packaged foods that will shed some light on this topic. Then I will give a great tool (designed by MY DIVA DIET) you can use when you are about to buy or consume packaged, processed and man-made food products.

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for assuring that foods sold in the United States are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. This applies to foods produced domestically, as wells as foods from foreign countries.”

“The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which amended the Food, Drug & Cosmetic (FD&C) Act requires most foods to bear nutrition labeling and requires food labels that bear nutrient claims and certain health messages to comply with specific requirements. (Regulations are frequently changed).” *
* Food Label Resources:
• FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration
• Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
• CFSAN/Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, April 2008 www.cfsan.fda.gov/guidance.html

Food Labels include the following:

Dietary Guidelines for Americans
This is found on the nutrition panel. It was designed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1980 and is updated every five years.

Nutrient Descriptors and Claims
This is found on the front of the package and is designed to get your attention–to encourage you to buy the product. Commonly used words are, “light”, “low fat”, “no trans fats”, and many more.

Health Claims
Health claims are common practice when foods that are packaged and/or man-made food products are marketed. Food companies use health problems (often caused by poor diet), certain nutrient deficiencies, the importance of certain nutrients, and the dangers of certain additives and preservatives to convince you to buy their products.

Note: Products that make health claims are subject to certain regulations set by the FDA. However, we really don’t know how strict they are and the degree of enforcement is unclear.

Don’t believe
everything you read!

Organic Labeling
On food labels, products using the term “organic” must meet the following guidelines:
• “100% Organic” means it must contain only organically produced ingredients.
• “Organic” means it must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients.
• Processed products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients can use the phrase
“Made With Organic Ingredients”.

The Nutrition Facts
The nutritional panel is on the back of most packaged and man- made food products. This includes both mandatory and voluntary information.

List of Ingredients
Ingredients for all foods (including standardized foods) must be listed on the food label. The label must also list the FDA-certified color additives by name. Ingredients are listed by weight, in descending order.

Food Allergies
Since January 2006, food manufacturers must also disclose whether products contain any of the top eight food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy). However, the label does not specifically address gluten. “Gluten Free” labeling is currently voluntary, but many food companies add it to their labels. This is due to the new trend of gluten-free foods becoming more popular.

What about Food Additives? "That would require an entire book to explain! So I will just say, when it comes to food additives, we really don't know the long-term safety of most of them. So ask yourself this question: do you really want to leave your future health to chance?"
Here is a link List of Food Additives

DIVA ADVICE -- “To really know what you are getting when you buy a packaged and/or man-made food products–DO YOUR HOMEWORK–your health and fitness levels depend on it.”

Diva Food Test & Paw Label Guide
Here is a quick six-question test you can perform when deciding what to eat (and drink). This is where the quality and purity of calories are determined. When choosing a food and/or a food product, you must be able to answer “yes” to three or more of the six questions listed below. Using this food test will ensure that your food choices fit into the MY DIVA DIET program for fat loss and better health.
Diva 6-Question Food Test
#1 – is it LEAN?
• Low in all fats (especially low in “bad fat”)

#2 – is it HEALTHY?
• Low in sugar
• Low in sodium
• Low in saturated fat and cholesterol
• Free of empty and unnecessary calories
• Free of trans fats
• Full of nutritional value

#3 – Where’s the FIBER? (exceptions are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy)

#4 – is it CLEAN? (what are the ingredients?)
• Low or no preservatives and additives
• Free of flavoring agents, coloring agents, etc.
• Free of chemicals and other fake foods
• Free of hidden fats, sugars, sodium, and flour
• If packaged, does it have less than 6 ingredients?

#5 – Is it PURE?
• Natural vs. processed
• Fresh vs. man-manipulated
• Organic vs. non-organic
• Kosher vs. non-Kosher
• Real vs. genetically modified
• If it is a packaged food, what are the ingredients listed?

#6 – Is it ALIVE? (with the exception of animal protein)
• Sprouted grains and legumes
• Raw nuts and seeds
• Raw fruits and vegetables

Packaged Food Analysis
There are seven main questions you should ask when you are considering packaged foods that are manipulated or man-made.
1. Who made it?
2. How was it made?
3. How many ingredients are in it?
4. What is in it (what are the ingredients)?
You should also wonder:
5. Where was the product made?
6. What kind of factories and equipment were used?
7. What are the conditions and practices of the company that made, processed or packaged the product?

When you examine labels of man-made food products or any packaged food here are some other things to know and do:
• Read the nutrition facts and know that it only gives part of the picture.
• Know that some products have zero nutrition.
• Read the list of ingredients and know that:
• The order of the ingredient tells you a lot about a particular product.
• The ingredients are listed in descending order–from most to least.
• It does not tell you exactly how much of each ingredient is used.
• Choosing packaged foods and man-made food products is NOT always “black and white”.
• There will always be Best – Moderate – Marginal – Worst.
• Use the Paw Ingredients Label Guide to help you deal with the number of ingredients and determine how many are appropriate.
• If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, you probably shouldn’t purchase that product.
• Don’t buy into the health claims–pure and wholesome foods offer the best health benefits and are safe!

Paw Ingredients Label Guide
Number of ingredients Signals
1 Ideal
3 Excellent
5 Probably OK
6-9 May need further analysis
10-19 Could be a problem
20-29 Caution
30 + Stay away!

There are a few exceptions to this guide (mainly protein shake mix, health drinks, and food bars that have added vitamins and minerals–but only those that meet the high quality food and liquid criteria)!

Great article to read on WebMD Women's Health -- "Weight Loss: How to Read Food Labels"

This information can be found in its entirety in MY DIVA DIET: A Woman's Last Diet Book Reading Labels section (pages 256 to 267; copyright 2007). www.MyDivaDiet.com
See detailed guide on grocery shopping on twit2fit–MY DIVA DIET "Grocery Shopping Guide".

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