Know Your Labels: Calorie Terms

Welcome back to another “Know Your Labels”. It’s important to know why certain products will label themselves in a specific way. As always, check the nutrition label and ingredients, not just what’s on the front of a package. The labeling on the front of the package might help to reduce the amount of labels we do read. So let’s talk about energy terms, or calorie terms that can be on products.

Calorie Terms or Energy Terms

  1. Calorie-Free: This means that there is less than 5 calories per serving. Be careful when choosing these items because more than likely they have additives in them to take and feel like food but it’s not a big help in the nutrition aspect.
  2. Low-Calorie: No more than 40 calories per serving. This items would be a good go-to snack if you are watching your caloric intake. However, a piece of fruit would be a good and low calorie option as well.
  3. Reduced Calories: Contains at least 25% fewer calories than the regular alternative product. It can be a good choice since usually a “reduced calorie” product can be they reduced the fat percentage of the product. But still always read the label. 25% reduced calories of a bag of chips still doesn’t mean it’s not a high calorie food.

Things to Consider

If you are watching you caloric intake and looking at products with these terms on the front, always read the label. When you reduce your caloric intake, watching your nutritional intake in a must. Since you will be eating less energy, the energy you consume should be from high nutrient sources. Less calories, higher nutrition. For instance, instead of snacking on a bag of crackers (120 calories), you choose an orange (30 calories). The orange will not only have good sources of energy but also added benefits of vitamins and minerals. Although the label might say low-calorie, or reduced calories, make sure the nutritional value of that product is high.

Although lower calorie products might help you with your caloric goal, you want to make sure you are doing it in the right way which is feeding your body nutrients it needs without going over your calorie deficit. If you need any help in this regard, I’m always here! Feel free to reach out.


Now a question for you:

Would you like to see some healthy snack options that are naturally low calorie and healthy?


Know Your Labels: Fat Terms

For this “Know Your Label” post I wanted to talk about the different labels about fats and what they mean. It’s important to know because if you are trying to watch your fat intake for weight loss, heart health, or any other concern, you need to know what these labels mean and not take it for granted that it’s healthy for your because it’s “reduced fat”. Things can start to get confusing when they start adding in percentages and then you have the “lean” and “extra lean”. What do these mean? Also, cholesterol terms I’m putting in a different post. These can be put together, but since the list is so long for the fat terms, I’m just sticking with “fat”.

Different Fats

This can be a long discussion, but here is a simple breakdown.

Unsaturated Fats: fats that stay liquid at room temperature (olive oil, vegetable oil). These are made of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They can also be known as your Omega fats.

Saturated Fats: fats that are solid at room temperature (butter, coconut oil)

Trans Fats: manufactured fats – never a healthy fat and needs to be as low as possible or avoided

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash
Fat Terms & Meanings

Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of total fat per serving

Saturated Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of saturated fat per serving

Trans Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of trans fat and less than 0.5 g saturated fat per serving

Low-Fat: 3 g or less total fat per serving

Low Saturated-Fat: 1 g or less saturated fat per serving & less than 0.5 g trans fat per serving

Less Saturated-Fat: At least 25% less saturated fat and trans fat combined than the comparison

Here is where it gets interesting… get ready for some math.

% Fat-Free: An indication of the amount of a food’s weight that is fat-free. This can only be used on foods that are low-fat or fat-free to begin with and must reflect the amount of fat in 100 g.

Example: A food that weights 100 g with 3 g of fat can be labeled as “97% Fat Free”.

***It is the amount of the foods weight that is fat free, not the calories.

Example: If the same 100 g food applies here. Say that food is 100 calories with 3 g of fat. The food can technically be labeled low fat & with it being 100 g in weight can technically be called 97% fat free. Sounds pretty good. However, if the food is only 100 calories, with 3 g of fat (1 g of fat = 9 calories, so 3 x 9 = 27 calories) 27/100 calories are from fat. Which means 27% of the calories from that food is fat. If you are needing other Macro-Nutrients, you might want to check the nutrition label first.

If you are trying to eat a low fat diet, then finding foods that are “fat free” and “low fat” should be a good indication that what you are eating will go along with your diet. Just be aware of serving sizes. The “% fat free” can be a little misleading. Make sure to check the nutrition label before deciding to buy these to make sure you are staying within the limits you think you are.

Lean & Extra Lean

These describe the fat content of meat and poultry products.

Lean: Less than 10 g of fat, 4.5 g saturated fat and trans fat combined, and less than 95 mg cholesterol.

Extra Lean: Less than 5 g of fat, 2 g of saturated fat and trans fat combined, and less than 95 mg cholesterol.

Bottom Line

Being informed about what you are buying is a huge deal. And whether you are watching the amount of fat in your diet because of weight loss, lowering your cholesterol, etc. it’s important to read the nutrition label no matter what the front of the product may say. And remember to always check the serving size. It might be less than what you are actually going to use it for.

Know Your Ingredients: The Many Names Soy

The next on my “Know Your Ingredients” posts is soy. It’s one of my worst and it’s partly because of how wide spread it’s used, like corn. It’s easy to get an overload of soy without even trying, especially when you have processed foods. It is required in the US and is a federal “Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act” that labels clearly list soy in the ingredients or it could be listed after the ingredients as “Contains: Soy”. Advisory statements like, “may contain soy” or “made in a facility with soy” are optional. Better to know what you’re reading just in case some of these words pop up on the list of ingredients. Let’s break down where soy can be found and what it’s used in.

Soy (or Soya) Products
  • Bean curd
  • Edamame (soy beans in pods)
  • Miso (fermented soy)
    • I use a chickpea miso that I’ve found.
  • Soy sauce
  • Soy based flours, nuts, or sprouts
  • Soy protein
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
Foods That Most Likely Contain Soy, and Will Need to Check the Label
  • Plant based dairy products: plant based milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, etc.
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
  • Canned Broths and Soups
  • Canned Tuna and other Meats
  • Processed Meats / Frozen Burgers
  • Cereals
  • High Protein Energy Bars and Snacks
  • Plant-Based Protein Powders
  • Infant Formula
  • Vegetable Oils
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Soy Lecitin: often used in chocolate bars/candy, peanut butter, and margarine.
Other Names that May Use Soy Ingredients
  • Glycine max
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Mono-diglyceride
  • Monosodium Glytamate (MSG)
  • Artificial Flavoring
  • Natural Flavoring
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Vegetable Gum
  • Vegetable Starch

Something to always remember as well, although you might find a brand of, let’s say bread, that doesn’t have soy in the ingredients, it doesn’t mean that it won’t change. They don’t have to tell you when they change their ingredients. It can be a safe bet for a little while, but I always check from time to time to make sure the ingredients are the same as before.

Know your labels. Although it’s good that most packaged food will list if there is soy and clearly state, “Contains: Soy”, it doesn’t mean it won’t sneak in with the vegetable broth or plain “starch”. As with any allergy, especially if it’s severe, be aware and educate yourself. Knowing is half the battle. If you are just learning about this or another allergy, know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed at first, because it is. But know that the more you learn and the more you adapt to the changes, the easier it becomes and reading labels won’t feel overwhelming and you’ll find your new products and recipes to make in no time!