Is "low" better than "reduced" or "light?" When you're comparing foods with different "nutrient content claims," as these adjectives are called, it can seem as difficult as comparing apples to oranges. Luckily, the FDA regulates claims like these on food packaging, so "low-fat" means the same thing, whether you're buying apple pie or orange sorbet. The question is, how do you figure out what "low fat" means in the first place? Use this handy reference to help you get a handle on what this and other nutrient claims mean.
Understanding the Highs and Lows of Food Labels
A food can tout these nutrient claims if the following holds true:
(approximately 5% Daily Value) fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, or calories, so it can be eaten frequently without exceeding the percent Daily Value . (Daily Value is the amount recommended that you consume per day. For nutrients you should limit, stay below 100% Daily Value per day. For other nutrients, strive for at least 100% Daily Value each day.)
refers to a food with at least 25% fewer
calories, and 25% less
fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, or sodium than the food it's being compared with, called a reference food.
Less or fewer:
refers to a food that has 25% less
sodium, fat, or 25% fewer
calories than the reference food.
Light or light in sodium:
refers to a food that has one-third fewer
calories, 50% less
fat, or 50% less
sodium than the traditional version. (Note: Light can also be used to describe texture or color, such as "light and fluffy" frosting or "light brown sugar.") Free:
of a component or so little that it won't likely affect the body. The term is used with fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, and calories.
contains at least 20%
Daily Value of a particular nutrient. Good source:
contains 10 to 19%
Daily Value of a particular nutrient.
More, fortified, or added:
contains at least 10% more
of the Daily Value of a nutrient than is found in the reference food. Healthy:
contains beneficial levels
of several components. It must fall within certain parameters regarding fats, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins, and minerals. Amounts vary depending on the type of food, and are determined by the FDA. Lean:
Seafood, poultry, or meat with less than 10 grams
(g) total fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, and 95 mg cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving.
Seafood, poultry, or meat with less than 5 g
total fat, 2 g saturated fat, and 95 mg cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving. Just the Nutrient Facts
Still not sure how a food fits into your diet? Check out the Nutrition Facts label. When the food label was revamped in 1994 by the FDA and the USDA, it was turned into an easy-to-read chart that displays the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, and some select vitamins and minerals per serving. As of January 1, 2006, this chart is required to list the amount of trans fats, which have been linked to heart disease. For tips on understanding the nutrition labels, visit MyPyramid Food Guidance System at www.mypyramid.gov