Our writer, Joann DiFabio-Klinkner is all about building awareness of what makes up the food we eat. Are you someone who accepts the unhealthy additives which go into the products we eat, or do you choose to read and understand the nutrition labels on these products? Joann educates us on ingredients and nutrition information so we can easily remember what is harmful to our bodies and what is not. What we eat can, in the short term, affect our mood and our energy, and in the longer term can have a major affect on our health. Over the next few months we’ve partnered with Mediterranean Snacks ® to join them on their mission to educate, engage and influence consumers to continue to make healthier choices when it comes to the foods and snacks they eat.
Calories, Fat, and Serving Size
Reading a nutrition label seems pretty straightforward. Manufacturers make them pretty fairly easy to read these days. They even bold the things people most commonly look for when they glance at the label in the store before they buy it. So by now you probably think you’ve got it nailed. But sometimes a closer look will reveal some undesirable information that some food manufacturers display in a rather sneaky way.
The most common thing consumers look for when they pick up a product and look at the nutrition label is the calories and total fat, both of which are typically bold on the nutrition label. So you may very quickly see 110 calories and 2 grams of fat and think, “Oh, this is a great snack!” What most consumers forget to look at after the calories and fat is the serving size.
Serving size plays an important role in the quality of a snack. Serial dieters and health nuts alike will agree that awareness of portion and serving size is key to maintaining a healthy weight. So when a seemingly healthy granola bar boasts only 110 calories and 2 grams of fat per serving, take a look at the serving size. Is it a full bar? Or is it only a half bar? Now your calories just shot up to 220 and your fat shot up to 4 grams for one granola bar, because who is going to eat only half of a granola bar? Not so healthy anymore, is it?
Another sneaky tactic that some food manufacturers will use is to display the serving size in grams only. Unless you are doling out your food onto a kitchen scale, you probably don’t know how many crackers will equal 30 grams. Odds are, you’ll be eating double the serving size without even realizing it.
Another thing to watch out for on nutrition labels is the amount of calories from fat in a single serving. The total calories in a serving size are a combination of calories from fat, calories from carbohydrates, and calories from protein. You want to look for products that have a low-total-calories-to-fat-calories ratio. This means that the majority of the calories are not coming from the fat content. For example, if peanut butter has 180 calories and 16 grams of fat per serving, but 140 of those calories are coming from fat, then it is a high-fat food. If black beans have 110 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving, but only 10 calories are coming from fat, then it is a low-fat food.
The news about calories, fat, and serving size isn’t totally dismal, though. Truly healthy snacks don’t need to be sneaky on their nutrition labels. As a consumer, you just need to be savvy enough to differentiate the “tricks” from the real treats.
Here are a couple tips for selecting the perfect snack from the bunch.
1) Look at the serving size. If you’re picking up a box of granola or cereal bars and the fat and calories seem too good to be true, odds are the serving size is only half of one bar. When foods are packaged in a box but individually wrapped, always check the serving size to be sure that one serving equals exactly one individually wrapped product.
2) Check the nutrition label for an approximation of product per serving size grams. If a serving size is 30 grams, look for parentheses next to the serving size to say “approximately 14 chips.” That way you know approximately how many chips or crackers are in one serving and you are less likely to eat more than one serving.
3) Remember that we do need some fat in our diet and you can easily learn about good fat vs. bad fat. According to WebMD, fat provides essential fatty acids, keeps our skin soft, delivers fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energizing fuel. Check out WebMD or Google to learn more about good vs. bad fats.
4) Balance is key in your daily life when it comes to calories, serving size, and fat intake. Not one body is the same, so it’s important not to compare your body’s nutrients to somebody else. You should also discuss with your physician before making any decisions about your diet.
When comparing packaged foods, it’s good to do a side-by-side comparison of the nutrition labels. Most consumers want a product that gives you more bang for your buck in terms of serving size vs. fat and calories. If you have a choice between two similar products that have the same fat and calories per serving, but one product’s serving size is double the other product, you’re going to want the product with the bigger serving size.
Take a look at Mediterranean Snacks as an example. All of Mediterranean Snacks, Baked Lentil Chips ® offer 22 chips per 1oz serving size and are calorically smart with only 110-130 calories per serving (depending on flavor).
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