The label decides if snack is good for youIf you really want to know whether the snack you’re eyeing in the store is healthy or junk food, don’t just rely on the packaging. Check the label.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
If you really want to know whether the snack you’re eyeing in the store is healthy or junk food, don’t just rely on the packaging. Check the label.
Answers can be found on the nutrition information labels that are required on most products, according to Kathy Boos, dietitian at Fairview Red Wing Medical Center.
Dietitians agree that it’s a good thing companies are making more products with whole grains, fiber and other nutritious ingredients.
However, those are still sweetened treats, they note.
“You don’t want to eat most of those all the time,” said Kristen Liebl, dietitian for MeritCare in Fargo, N.D.
Whole-grain cookies and veggie chips may make good snacks.
However, Boos said, they should not be considered substitutes for fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain breads.
Adding whole grains and subtracting trans fats are small steps toward thinking more nutritionally, the dietitians agreed. But there is more to be considered, Boos said.
She’s had situations where patients told her they started drinking a beverage with Omega-3. The problem, Boos said, was that the drink had 90 calories and contained half carbohydrates, which is not recommended for diabetics.
It would be easier, she said, to take an Omega-3 capsule and eat fruits and vegetables — and probably less expensive, too.
People should not think such products are cure-alls, Boos said.
“It’s just part of the whole picture.”
Liebl pointed out that a low-calorie beverage filled with vitamins and minerals might not be as good for you as it sounds.
Americans need Vitamins A and D and calcium, she said, not B vitamins and niacin — three of the five additions to Diet Coke Plus.
Those nutrients are prevalent in meats and grains, foods we typically eat in plentiful amounts, she said.
Boos also cautioned people to make sure snack foods that appear healthy don’t have hidden ingredients such as more sugar, sodium or fats — things that make them poor substitutes for produce, which is naturally low in calories and sodium yet high in fiber and nutrients.
This is where reaching for the nutrition label becomes important.
For example, Boos said, if a product is advertised as containing whole grains, “Look at the label and see the number of grams of fiber.”
A high-fiber food will have 3 grams or more, she said.
“Some wheat breads don’t even have 1 gram of fiber,” she added.
In contrast, Boos said, one serving of fruits or vegetables averages 2 to 3 grams of fiber. It doesn’t take much to constitute a serving — 12 grapes, a half-cup of raspberries or a small apple or orange is sufficient.
Check fat content as well, she added. “Some of the whole-grain chips out there are higher in fat than the regular chips.”
Similarly, people should look for the right kinds of fats — from olive oil or canola oil — and consider the total calories from fat.
Thirty percent or less is a healthier choice, she said.
Stores specializing in health foods offer a wide range of merchandise, and help understanding label information.
Some of the most popular snacks at Simple Abundance in downtown Red Wing, for example, include organic Honey Grahams made with no trans fats, Nut-Thins, baked potato chips and Bobo’s Oat Bars.