Food for Thought Friday: Food Labels & Food Claims!

Today’s Food for Thought Friday segment delves into food labels and food claims. With so many food claims out there— organic, natural, reduced fat, low fat, enriched, and more— it can be hard to understand what these terms mean, and how they should impact our food choices while grocery shopping. So today I’ve outlined all of the important information for you. Everything from how to read a food label to understanding different food claims is covered— check it out guys!


How to read a food label:


1. Check the serving size. Ask yourself if that’s a reasonable amount for a serving. If it’s far less than the amount you’d realistically consume, then the food label is somewhat skewed.


2. Check the calories and the calories from fat. General guidelines: around 50 calories is low range, 100 calories is mid range, and 400 calories is high range. You’ll want to choose foods within the low to mid caloric range. Again, keep the serving size in mind!


3. What nutrients you should limit. These include your unhealthy fats, cholesterol, and sodium. You’ll want to keep these nutrients in low consumption, so look for foods that contain low amounts of these. 5% or less of your daily value would be considered low.


4. What nutrients you should ensure you get enough of. These include fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. You’ll want to ensure you’re getting enough of these nutrients, so look for foods that contain higher amounts of these. 20% or more of your daily value would be considered high.


5. Check the ingredients. Ideally, if you’re eating clean, the ingredients list should be relatively short and it should be comprised of ingredients you know. A lengthy ingredient list full of ingredients you can’t pronounce is the hallmark of processed, artificial, synthetic foods!

Handy graphic to help you learn how to read a food label quickly & easily

Food claims

Calorie free: Less than 5 calories

Sugar free: Less than 0.5 grams of sugar

Fat free: Less than 0.5 grams of fat

Low fat: 3 grams of fat or less
Reduced fat or less fat: At least 25 percent less fat than the regular product
Low in saturated fat: 1 gram of saturated fat or less, with not more than 15 percent of the calories coming from saturated fat

Lean: Less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol

Extra lean: Less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol

Light: At least one-third fewer calories or no more than half the fat of the regular product, or no more than half the sodium of the regular product


Cholesterol free: Less than 2 milligrams of cholesterol and 2 grams (or less) of saturated fat

Low cholesterol: 20 or fewer milligrams of cholesterol and 2 grams or less of saturated fat
Reduced cholesterol: At least 25 percent less cholesterol than the regular product and 2 grams or less of saturated fat

Sodium free or no sodium: Less than 5 milligrams of sodium and no sodium chloride in ingredients

Very low sodium: 35 milligrams or less of sodium
Low sodium: 140 milligrams or less of sodium
Reduced or less sodium: At least 25 percent less sodium than the regular product

High fiber: 5 grams or more of fiber

Good source of fiber: 2.5 to 4.9 grams of fiber

Organic claims


– Regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2002, 4 classes of “organic” foods were identified. Independent accredited certifiers verify these claims.


– 100% Organic: Must be 100% organic. Contains only organic ingredients with no antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation, synthetic pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers. Can show the USDA’s organic logo and USDA’s organic seal.

– Organic: Must be at least 95% organic, provided the remaining 5% of the ingredients are not available from organic sources. Can also display the USDA’s organic seal.
– Made with organic: Foods that are at least 70% organic can use this phrase to describe only the organic ingredients.
– Organic ingredients: Foods that are less than 70% organic can only use the phrase organic on the ingredients list to describe organic ingredients.

– Natural: No regulation for the term “natural” exists. Manufactures can use this term with much discretion, so choose foods labeled “natural” with caution. This term is generally taken to mean that it does not contain artificial dyes, flavors, or substances.


Grain claims


– Multigrain: Foods that contain more than one type of grain. There is no regulation on how much or what type of grains though, so there may not be healthy grains included.

– Whole Grain: Foods that have at least a small portion of whole grain. There is no regulation on how much, so it may be a very small portion of healthy grains included.
– 100 % Whole Grain: Foods made with only whole grains. These are the best food choices of all the grain food label claims.

Nutrient claims


– Fortified: Foods that have nutrients added to them (beyond the naturally occurring ones)

– Enriched: Foods that have nutrients which have been lost during processing added back to them
– Fortified foods tend to be a better choice than enriched foods

– Good source of: These foods contain at least 10% of the daily recommended amount per serving 

– High source of: These foods contain at least 20% of the daily recommended amount per  serving

Miscellaneous food claims

– These have little to no regulation
– Choose these foods with caution

– Green

– Contains antioxidants
– Strengths immune system
– Doctor recommended

In the end

– Make informed food choices!
– Be skeptical of food claims!
– Always check food labels!

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