Multiple nutrition fact labels in various colors spread out on a table.

Nutrition Labeling: Not Just the Facts!

By Suzanne Caithamer, RD

Here at Covenant Natural Health Care, we are all about what’s in your food. We want to ensure that what you are eating has clean, wholesome ingredients. Because of this, we would rather patients focus on the ingredient list on packages of food rather than the Nutrition Facts label.

Ingredient lists began in the mid-1960s, when consumers began to shift from cooking most meals at home to relying more on packaged foods. Consumers wanted to know what they were eating, and therefore the FDA made ingredient lists on commercial foods mandatory.

Ingredients are listed on a package in descending order by weight. Therefore, the first few ingredients tell you what the food is mostly made up of.

A good rule of thumb is to choose foods that have a list of ingredients that are recognizable. If you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Note that fresh produce, for example, has no ingredient list — it’s obvious what the food is, and there is nothing added to it. However, many processed foods have versions that are much better for your health than others. Let’s look at a few examples.

Example 1

  • Kroger Brand Peanut Butter: Roasted peanuts, Sugar, contains 2% or less of: Molasses, Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils, Salt.
  • Kroger Organic Peanut Butter: Organic peanuts, Sea salt.
  • Peanut butter shouldn’t have sugar or hydrogenated oils (trans fats), as the Kroger brand does. The organic version may be stickier and need stirring and refrigeration, but it is a much better choice for your health.

Example 2

  • Kroger Brand Sour Cream: Cultured Cream, Skim Milk, Whey, Modified Corn Starch, Cultured Dextrose, Gelatin, Sodium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Calcium Sulfate, Locust Bean Gum.
  • Daisy Sour Cream: Cultured Cream.
  • The Kroger brand of sour cream contains five thickeners, sugar, and preservatives. Daisy doesn’t have any of that stuff.

Example 3

  • Kroger Brand Pancake Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Salt, Cellulose Gum, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Sorbic Acid and Sodium Benzoate, Phosphoric Acid.
  • Private Selection 100% Pure Grade A Dark Color Maple Syrup: Maple Syrup.
  • Commercial pancake syrup is really just a chemical sugar bomb. Maple syrup not only tastes better, but even has some nutrients, like minerals and antioxidants. Recent research has shown that it is anti-inflammatory, unlike processed white sugar, which is inflammatory.
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