Reading food labels can help you define “healthy”

Understanding how to read a nutrition facts label can help clear up the confusion of food packaging.

Food packaging can be confusing. When walking down the grocery aisle, the average consumer will find many different foods claiming to be natural, organic, fat-free and/or gluten free. Some foods also claim to be “healthy” on their packages, but what does this mean?

According to the Wall Street Journal, “When the term ‘healthy’ was first officially defined in 1994, low-fat content was the main focus of health professionals. Sugar wasn’t on the FDA’s or most nutritionists’ radar.”

In the same article, the Wall Street Journal relates that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be reviewing the definition of “healthy” in the very near future. A petition requesting a review of the term was filed by Kind LLC after the FDA ordered them to stop using the word “healthy and tasty” on the packaging of their fruit and nut bars.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that consumers take the time to review the Nutrition Facts Label when purchasing any packaged foods. These labels can help us better understand what is in the packaged foods we eat and assist us in making better food choices. Food labels include:

  • Serving size
  • Calories
  • Total fat, cholesterol and sodium
  • Total carbohydrates, dietary fiber and sugars and protein
  • Ingredient list

Reading and understanding food labels is not only confusing, it can also be overwhelming. MSU Extension offers nutrition classes and disease prevention management classes that teach participants how to better understand and utilize the Nutrition Facts Label. For more information about these classes contact your local MSU Extension office

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