Ruth To The Rescue: What to Read First on Food Labels

West Bloomfield dietitian says people should look at serving size first

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Food labels are there to help people eat healthier, but how many people actually look at the labels?

"I would say probably, maybe 50 percent of the time," said Bruce Baker.

"I just grab it.  I don't really pay too much attention to it, which I should, but I don't," said Audrey Ridgell

Maggie Egrin shops at Holiday Market in Royal Oak and said she is always looking at food labels.

"There is a couple things, partially hydrogenated oils I try to avoid, and corn syrup," said Egrin.

Gail Posner, a registered dietitian and owner of Healthy Ways Nutrition Counseling in West Bloomfield said many of her clients start to make different food selections once they start looking at food labels.

"The first thing you want look at is, well, how many calories are they for how much you get?," said Posner.

Using Quaker Popped Rice Snacks, Posner showed Local 4 what to look for on a food label.

"This says right in the top 13 mini cakes for 120 calories. Well, that sounds good, but I teach my clients to look at, well, how many servings in the container? And this one is three.  Because, most people, if they open this bag, will finish the bag," said Posner.

Posner said if someone eats the whole bag, it's about 360 calories. 

Egrin said she tries to follow the service size on the food labels but it can be difficult.

"When you're hungry, that one portion might not cut it right at that moment, and so you might go back for seconds but i think it's important because I don't' think we really need very much to sustain ourselves within a few hour period and there is always next time" said Egrin.

Posner has some advice to help.

"I encourage people to look at the portion size and then, perhaps stop at the portion-size. Wait 20 minutes,  Am I still hungry? Before they take another portion," said Posner.

As for fat content, Posner said a good rule of thumb is one gram of saturated fat per 100 calories.   She also said people should buy products with zero transfat.  To determine that read the back of the label, not just the front of the packaging.

"By law it can still have 0.5 grams of transfat per serving and be labeled 'no transfat' on the front," said Posner.

People should pay attention to added sugars on the label.

They can be listed as other ingredients including honey, high fructose corn syrup, or dextrose to name a few.

No matter what you call the sugars, the American Heart Association recommends women get no more than 100 calories of added sugar a day, and men no more than 150 calories.

As for sodium, Posner said a low sodium product is considered 140 milligrams per serving.

Going back to the Quaker Popped Rice Snacks as an example, people should also look at the dietary fiber.  For a snack food like this one, Posner said a one is fine, but food with three grams would be considered really good.

Posner also said ingredients are listed in order of quantity and not alphabetically.

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