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What are all the definitions for nutritional terms, such as low-fat?

After an online search for the definition of "low fat" (they don't make it easy to find basic nutritional information on the USDA website), this writer finally found the USDA Specifications for Yogurt, Nonfat Yogurt, and Lowfat Yogurt. This is what was listed: Lowfat Yogurt: Fat – not less than 0.5 percent or more than 2 percent (Milk Solids Not Fat – not less than 8.25 percent). A serving of yogurt, according to the USDA, is 1 cup. But I wanted to know about other content claims that you find on food labels.

This writer spends a good portion of her time on the computer doing research. So it does not make me a happy camper to learn I just wasted a lot of time because I was not even on the right website! I really needed to be on the FDA website. It is there where I found a pretty lengthy and quite informative chart of the various nutritional terms many people are interested in, such as low far, low calorie, etc.

Besides finding that great chart, I learned that there are content claims and there are nutrient content claims. Regarding the terms "Free," "Very Low," and "Low," the manufacturer can only use those terms when the food product "meets that definition WITHOUT (my caps) benefit of special processing, alteration, formulation or reformulation; e.g., "broccoli, a fat-free food" or "celery, a low calorie food."

This chart is full of definitions and technical specifications for the various nutrients as well. While that is all well and good, ask yourself what YOU see first when looking at a package? Of course, the consumer sees the big letters that spell out those various terms that no one knows how they are defined: free, very low fat, or low fat, or some other term. Never mind the real information is in the nutrition label itself.

How many of you even read the label? If you haven’t read one in some time, do you know that there are now new label regulations? Instead of using the serving size, which has been the gold standard for years, based on solid scientific and nutritional evidence that people can use in determining a healthy and well-rounded 1200- or 2000-calorie diet, you now have to guess on how much you really can eat and still consume a healthy diet and lose weight.

The old serving sizes were typically quantities such as one cup, ½ cup, 4 ounces, etc. The NEW term they are using now, but which is still in the comment phase for new regulations, is RACC. That stands for: Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed. The typical consumer will eat an entire plate of spaghetti and sauce. That plate is actually closer to 3 to 4 servings!

Really? For people controlling their calories, carbs, or anything else, following the "customarily consumed" amount is a dangerous way to make sure your diet is a healthy one. Further, the burden to make the proper serving size calculation is on the consumer. In a nation where 66% of the population is overweight or obese (often morbidly obese), our government has decided to use a diet standard on what has made this country a bunch of fat people who are burdening the taxpayers to the tune of billions in medical costs.

Look for my next article, as I make my way through the maze of new bureaucratic language our government has managed to come up with. No wonder people watching their diet are having a hard time trying to make sense out of the new labeling. The next article will go into the methodology the FDA used to do away with one that work, and how the FDA has given new meaning to “serving size.”

In the meantime, use common sense in determining what portion you should be eating. Not two apples, but one. Not 4 pieces of bacon, but two. Not a plate of spaghetti, but a half to one cup.

If you wish to comment now on the proposed new labeling, click here to do so.

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