Back to School Lesson Plan: Evaluating Food Labels

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September is the mark of a new school year. The best way you can give your kids an academic edge this school year is by making smart food choices to feed their hungry minds. Knowing what to look for on nutrition labels will keep you falling prey to confusing measurements and misleading claims.

As consumers are seeking more natural products, companies are finding creative loopholes.  A good example; The Nutrition Facts label can state 0 grams of trans fat if the food product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. However, the source will be listed in the ingredient list.

  1. Here’s my cheat sheet for reading Nutrition Facts Labels:
    First and foremost, read the INGREDIENT list. They are listed in order of quantity, from most to least. Make a point to buy products when you’re able to identify everything on the ingredient list.
  2. Serving size – Serving sizes can be sneaky. You may be surprised to see how many servings are in a container. Often, they are smaller than the average person will eat.
  3. Fat  – What is much more important than the number of grams is the type of fat you are eating. The fat in nuts, seeds & avocados are a much healthier “nutrient dense” choice than a “low-fat” cracker made of refined flour.
  4.  Fiber – Breakfast cereals and high sugar snacks are often marketed as “high fiber”.  However these fibers are functional fibers added to foods to boost their fiber content. Getting fiber from whole foods; whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains is my recommendation, it does a body good!
  5. Calories – Not all calories are created equal. Calories are a measure of the energy that is generated from food once inside the body.  150 calories of almonds and 150 calories of soda may be equal in number but discount variables such as nutrients, fiber, fat hunger, cravings and emotions.
  6. Sugar – Nutrition fact labels do not differentiate between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar.  A whole fruit like an apple has nutrients, antioxidants and fiber which helps slows down the absorption of sugar verses fruit juice, which has been stripped of its fiber and nutrients, will cause blood sugar spikes leaving you craving more.

As you are rushing to get your shopping done, remember, the most valuable information is listed on the Ingredient List.  A good rule of thumb, the shorter the ingredients list, the better. Give your family an academic edge; choose food made by Mother Nature. No label reading required!

Picture provided by U.S. Food and Drug Administration [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Susan ChasenSusan Chasen is a Certified Nutrition & Health Coach. She is the founder of The Organic Teaching Kitchen where she offers nutrition coaching, “hands-on-cooking” classes, cleanses & nutrition workshops to adults, teens & kids. Susan brings wellness into school classrooms and small businesses too. Baking and Cooking Birthday Parties are fun for all ages at The Organic Teaching Kitchen.

Contact Susan for health consultation. It’s complimentary to Mom Offers More Readers.

The Organic Teaching Kitchen is located at 18 Old Post Rd. South. Croton-on-Hudson, NY. Check out her monthly group workshop schedule at http://www.theorganicteachingkitchen.com or contact her at [email protected]

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