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Understanding Marketing Schemes

Do you know what you are eating? The following information can help you choose a healthy option.

Nashville, Ark. – If you have cruised the aisles of your favorite grocery store lately, you may have become overwhelmed by the amount of labeling on food products. As we navigate through the aisles, we want to make wise decisions on the best, nutritious foods we give ourselves and our families. However, it’s becoming more of a challenge especially since so many things come in a box, bag, bottle or carton. Product manufacturers are great at providing information on the packaging, but is it always the best information?

            Don’t be misled by health claims on the packaging. The label may say 100 percent whole grain, heart healthy, gluten-free but is it really? The only way to know for sure is to read the Nutrition Facts Label and the ingredient list provided on the product. If there are more than five ingredients in the food, determine whether you know what the ingredients are, whether you can see them in the food, and whether you can pronounce their names. If you can’t, it may be reason enough to leave that product on the shelf.

            Are the first ingredients high-quality ingredients, derived from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds? For example, the first ingredient in whole wheat bread should be whole wheat. Anything else and it might not be 100 percent whole wheat bread but brown bread because of flavoring or color that has been added.  Another example is “Made with Real Fruit” on fruit flavored drinks. Sounds nutritious, but a closer look may reveal the drink only has 10% or less of real fruit. Look for 100% real fruit, which is usually located in a not so noticeable spot on the label.

            Next, look at the serving size. This will determine how much of each nutrient you’ll be getting in one serving. Remember, if you eat 2 or 3 servings of a food, you have to double or triple the amounts of fat, calories, etc.! A can of soup may have up to 4 servings per can, but you may choose to eat the whole can at one time. If so, you will need to do some calculations.

            Many people are concerned about limiting saturated fat in their diet because it raises cholesterol levels. On the nutrition facts label, look at the amount of saturated fat. If there are more than 3 grams per serving, you probably should skip this item. One easy way to determine if a product is high in a certain nutrient is to look at the % DV. If it is less than 5% on a certain nutrient, then it is low in that nutrient. If it is above 10%, then it is high in that nutrient. While you may be focused on keeping everything below the 5%, fiber and vitamins A and C are better high.

            Hidden sugar is another concern. There are tons of forms of sweeteners: cane sugar, honey, molasses, turbinado sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol sugar, or any word ending in “ose” all indicate sugar. They all act in the same way once they get into your system. Sugar has 15 calories in a teaspoon (4 grams). If a product contains 20 grams of sugar, it offers 5 teaspoons per serving! If you don’t think that is a lot, just measure out 5 teaspoons and see for yourself. Sometimes seeing is believing.

            2% milk is another item that is misleading. While it is lower in fat than whole milk, 2% is still considered a high saturated fat product. A better choice is 1%, skim or fat-free milk.

            Look at the fiber content in a single serving of food on the Nutrition Facts Label. If there are 5 grams or more in a serving, that food is considered to be an “excellent” source of fiber. If there are less than 3 grams per serving, you may need to look for something else, especially if your doctor has recommended a high fiber diet. Remember, fiber comes from plant foods. Think whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

            Shopping for nutritious foods can be challenging. There is so much information available through the media, internet, magazines and even on the labels. Learn to read and understand the information that is given on the product.

            For more information on understanding the Nutrition Facts Label, contact the Howard County Extension Office, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service at 870-845-7500 ext. 9 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. I’ll be glad to provide you with a fact sheet outlining the Nutrition Facts Label.

Recipe of the Week

            Looking for a delicious light salad to serve? This recipe will be a big hit when you invite your friends over on a hot summer afternoon. It features fresh peaches and cucumbers. Both are available at the Farmer’s Market on Friday mornings here in Nashville.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette on Peach Cucumber Salad

For the vinaigrette:

3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon finely minced lemon zest

2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or other fresh herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary)

Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

            Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl; or combine ingredients in a covered mason jar and shake.

For the salad:

Romaine lettuce

Diced cucumber

Sliced fresh peaches

Crisp cooked smoke bacon, chopped

            Rinse lettuce leaves and chop or tear into bite size pieces. Place on individual salad plates. Sprinkle with diced cucumber and lay sliced fresh peaches on top. Pour salad dressing on top and sprinkle with chopped bacon. Serve immediately.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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