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Deciphering Nutrition Facts on Food Labels for Healthier Living

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I was food shopping the other day and walked into the bakery section. Even though I own a cookie company, Laura's Wholesome Junk Food, and have plenty of my own cookies around the house, I like to try other sweets. I tell myself that this is "research" when the truth is I want to eat something sweet that someone else made.

My mom taught me to read labels and so it is impossible for me to buy something without reading the label. This day I was looking at muffins. A large dark chocolate muffin with chocolate chips caught my eye. I was hoping it would be sweetened with fruit juice or that it would at least be somewhat healthy ingredients. As I ought to have guessed, it was a flour, sugar and inexpensive oil with a bunch of additives I couldn't pronounce and certainly would not bake with. Then, I glanced at the next place I look, calories count: 240. Then, the third place I look is the serving size. This tells me how much of the muffin I eat to get the 240 calories. The serving size on this muffin read 1/3. That means that that one muffin was actually three servings and if I only wanted to get 240 calories that I had to break the muffin up into three exact pieces and only eat one of those? I have never done that, have you? I end up eating the whole thing unless I plan ahead and throw away part before even diving in.

I was brought up to read labels and went to medical school to learn about the human body and that 720 calories almost slipped by me. I sometimes forget to look at serving size. I wonder about the people who are intimidated by reading labels or are too busy to look at them. The will buy that muffin and eat it, maybe glancing at the 240 calories and feel okay about it, not knowing that they just ate three times that amount. I spent about 15 minutes reading various labels on baked goods and ended up not buying anything. I came home and ate one of my cookies and had a spoon of honey.

If the muffin came in a resealable baggie where I could close it back up and enjoy the same muffin three days in a row, then having three servings per package might make sense. Of, if they made three mini muffins in a resealable bag, that would work, too. We have a problem with people being heavier than is healthy for them and I feel that part of the problem is unhealthy ingredients combined with deceptive packaging that tricks people into eating more. An average person will eat that 720 calorie muffin and not know what they ate. While exercise is important for health and well being, I wonder how many hours are spent at the gym because of accidental over eating due to confusing food labels and packaging. I would like to hear feedback from readers on what you feel or think about food labeling or tell me any stories you have from reading labels. I also encourage you to find out the facts about your favorite foods and email them to me. If you have any questions about reading labels, I will do my best to answer them or refer you to someone who can. Please email your food label questions to info@lwjf.net.

Laura Trice, M.D., is the CEO/Founder of Laura's Wholesome Junk Food.