Sunday, July 02, 2006

You Must Heed What You Read On Food Labels

Nearly 8 in 10 Americans read food labels, yet obesity worsens

Okay, somebody's lying here.

A new Associated Press/Ipsos poll of 1,003 adults from May 30th through June 1st found that close to 80 percent of the American people read the nutritional labels on the foods they purchase. They especially look at fat grams, calories, sugar, and sodium when scouring those food labels.

Ironically, the survey found that despite this tenancious label-reading ritual that takes place by this overwhelming and supposedly health-conscious segment of the population, 44 percent of Americans STILL end up buying something they know is unhealthy for them.

WHOA WHOA WHOA, wait just a dog-gone minute here! What?! All these people are reading the food labels, but over half of them are buying junk that their bodies don't need anyways?! What's up with THAT?! Why even waste your time reading what's in a food product if you are going to ignore it anyway?

When you are losing weight, especially on livin' la vida low-carb, it is VITALLY important to not only READ the labels of the foods you purchase for consumption, but to actually heed what that labels says. If it has 10g sugar, then you KNOW that is way too much for your low-carb lifestyle. Choices, choices, choices...which ones will YOU make?

One man said he reads labels as a "habit" and because it piques his "curiosity." He added that he doesn't care about what a label says regarding how healthy a food is as long as they make it "taste good."

"Otherwise, there's no point," he concluded.

No point? How about warding off obesity and disease, sir? If you truly don't care about what you are putting in your mouth and only want it to taste good, then just forget about reading labels and buy yourself a bucket of sugar and a bucket of lard. Dip one hand in each bucket three times daily and stuff your face to your heart's content!

Most NORMAL people actually DO care about what they are reading on their food labels, but they are confused. I overheard a woman talking with her husband today at the grocery store about how much fat was in a food item they were contemplating buying. She said it would go well with her Weight Watchers program, but she wasn't sure about another food she wanted to get.

Let's be honest, unless you know what you are looking for, food labels can be confusing to some people. In our fat-phobic society, most people gravitate to the fat grams first followed quickly by the calories. Can I be honest with you? I haven't looked at the fat or calorie content of ANY food since I started livin' la vida low-carb.

What do I look for when I pick up a food item and look at the nutritional label? Naturally, I gravitate to the Total Carbohydrates first and then see how much fiber and sugar alcohols are in them so I can substract that from the total to give me the net carb count. If the net carbs are less than 5g, then it's an EXCELLENT product for my low-carb lifestyle. I'll sometimes settle for less than 10g net carbs, but only on very rare occasions and the food has to taste unbelievably good for me to sacrifice that many carbs.

Fat? Don't care, except for trans-fats. Calories? Not concerned. Sodium? Yes for me because I'm salt-sensitive, but it's not a problem for most people. Sugar? ABSOLUTELY because I avoid it at all costs. Everything else I simply ignore.

Of those surveyed, women (82 percent) care more about what is on nutrition labels than men (64 percent) which leads 65 percent of women to read labels compared with just over half of men.

Bachelors (65 percent) don't read labels as much as men with wives (76 percent) while nearly four in ten 18 to 29 year olds say they look at the caloric content of foods they buy first. Incredibly, despite their strong label-reading skills, a whopping 60 percent of teens and 20-somethings end up buying junk food anyways.

Do they think they're invincible? Like they have enough time at some unnamed point "later" in their life to start eating right and healthy? Man, I was a dope like that once. I used to think there would be plenty of time to start eating healthier, but it never came when I wanted it to. I had to get over 400 pounds before the epiphany went off in my head to begin livin' la vida low-carb. It's better to start learning good eating habits early in life to carry them forward for many years to come.

Some experts in the story about this poll say people can lie on these surveys about their actual habits, but I don't think they're lying to the pollsters as much as they are to themselves. Their thinking is, "Well, at least I know what I'm killing myself with so I've done my due diligence."

I even like to do this to my co-workers when they buy something out of the snack machine on the top floor. I look at them and ask, "Do you know how many carbs are in that?" Most of the time, I get the I-don't-care look while other times the person will let me see the package so I can reveal to them that honeybun has 59g carbohydrates in it! I'm sure people hate this, but I think they should KNOW what they are stuffing their faces with.

One EXCELLENT point in the article is the fact that nutritional labels aren't necessarily for the entire package, but rather for the specific serving size allocated by the food manufacturer. Therefore, that honeybun I referred to may have 59g carbs per serving and have 2 servings for a heart-stopping 118g carbs in it! Jeepers creepers, help me Rhonda!

I think that's very deceptive marketing when they do that to the serving size. A 20-ounce sugary soda is the same way because it contains 2 1/2 (8 oz) servings in it. Tricky, tricky, tricky! That's why reading labels is VITAL to your success when you are wanting to lose weight. Regardless of your plan, make sure those foods you buy will fit your diet and NEVER stray from the program.

This was a funny statistic: Since the standard food labels that we have today were introduced in the U.S. 12 years ago, the number of overweight people living in this country rose by 10 percent! Plus, with the affluence of our country doing well economically, more and more people are eating out at restaurants where the nutritional info may not be as readily available. That's why there is a move to have restaurants cut portions and calories right now.

Because obesity is not getting any better, the government is considering changing the food labels in an effort to help people understand them better so they will be more useful to the consumer.

I don't see anything wrong with the nutritional labels we have. People are going to be people and make the choices about what they will eat regardless of what is put on that label. With our government pushing for warning labels on foods, what we need is education so that people will realize how harmful eating certain ingredients like trans-fats and sugar can be to their body. It's obvious from this survey that we still have a lot of work to do to convince people how unhealthy they are living.

What's it going to take to wake these people up to the reality of obesity?

7-3-06 UPDATE: The head of my department at work provided the PERFECT example of what I talked about in this blog post today. While our office was closed for the holiday, our department was working so she brought us lunch. Knowing I don't eat "normal" high-carb sweets, she was thoughtful enough to bring in some sugar-free cookies.

I took a bite of one of these sugar-free macadamia nut cookies and they tasted great. Of course, the sugar replacement was the dreaded maltitol. Then, when I looked at the nutritional label, I saw that each cookie had 11g net carbs from the flour used. My co-worker said she never even looked at the label for the carbs, she just saw "sugar-free" and thought it was acceptable.

Of course, not to be rude since she remembered me, I ate one of the cookies. But this is a great lesson about the importance of reading labels. You really can't just assume something that is labeled "sugar-free" or "low-carb" is necessarily good for you when you are livin' la vida low-carb.

Like a dogged investigator, do the footwork yourself by reading the labels. It only take a few seconds and will keep you well on track with your low-carb lifestyle.


Blogger diamondwife said...

speaking of horrible things people choose to consume, checkthis out...

7/03/2006 11:11 AM  
Blogger 1Peter3 said...

Sorry diamonwife, that link didn't work for me, can you post a little about what it said?


The study may indicate that most people are reading the nutrition information... but I can almost guarantee you that when they decide to eat some junk, they aren't bothering to read it, or even if they are, they still have the attitude that "Well, I'm making up for this by eating good stuff the rest of the time".

If it's a once-in-a-blue-moon indulgence, that isn't so bad, but many people think they need a "naughty" treat every day (and if ignoring the serving size, they may be eating several days worth of treats at once!), and that's when it really becomes a problem, whether they're eating low fat, low carb, or calorie controlled.

7/03/2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger diamondwife said...

Sorry it didn't work as a link. If you type it in your web browser it will work, I tried it. It is a hamburger where krispy kreme donuts are the bun. You have to see it to believe it!

7/03/2006 5:16 PM  
Blogger Leigh said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/03/2006 5:37 PM  
Blogger Leigh said...

I think the co-worker who thought "sugar-free" meant "carb-free" is representative of the level of understanding that the general population has about nutrition labels. I was once chided for eating something that contained "lecithin" (as in, "how can you say you are food conscious when you eat products containing things like lecithin"). When I explained that lecithin is, in fact, natural and healthy, I just got the eye roll. It's just ignorance.

And Diamondwife is right - you have to see the krispy kreme burger - it looks disgusting and is a waste of a perfectly good cheeseburger. :-p

7/03/2006 5:41 PM  
Blogger Mark F said...

Has anyone taken the time to look at the nutritional label of the GoLower bars and see how much better labeling can be?

If you haven't there are two columns. The first is the information for a 100 gram quantity and the second column is the information for the actual 34 gram bar.

So much better than such frauds as Crystal Light's packet to add to 20 oz bottled water that is based on an 8 oz serving.

7/03/2006 6:45 PM  
Blogger detox said...

I have been an avid label reader for all my life, as someone with severe food allergies this is a necessity. And I have lost friends commenting on ingredient lists of their food... ;)

I really think people (kids!) need to be educated about stuff like sugars and transfats. If I read stuff like mono- and digylcerides of.... or other creepy hardened fats stuff, well, thank you. Most convenience products are just plain disgusting. And thats why label reading 101 won't happen. No profit to make except with fresh unadulterated foods.

7/04/2006 5:45 AM  
Blogger 1Peter3 said...

I think most people who read the labels are like one of my elderly inlaws. It seems like everything she buys to eat is labeled low fat, or low sodium, or sugar free, or low calorie. She doesn't seem to be able to figure out which way she wants to go with her food, so rather than buying anything that's real, she just buys whatever she finds that claims it doesn't have as much of one thing or another.

In the end, she's not really cutting back on anything at all, because as we all know, the sugar free stuff probably still has an excess of carbs (and most likely lots of sugar alcohols), the fat free stuff is loaded with extra sugars, and the low sodium stuff can still be full fat (often transfats), and full sugar.

Worse than that, she's ignoring the wholesome foods she should really be eating, like meats and veggies.

7/04/2006 10:22 AM  

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