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Posts Tagged ‘ Food and Drug Administration ’

FDA wants to know what you consider a “healthy” food product.

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post: FDA wants to know what you consider a ‘healthy” food product.

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

What do you consider a healthy food product?

As a nutritionist, what comes to my mind are whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and fish. Few people would debate such foods as being healthy and nutritious.

What gets tricky is how the definition pertains to many foods with package labels that are allowed to make claims such as “healthy,” “low in fat” or “good source of.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it plans to redefine what “healthy” means on packaged food labels.

For decades, FDA had defined a product as “healthy” if it met certain criteria such as low-fat, low saturated fat and cholesterol, relatively low in sodium, and contained at least 10% of the daily value (DV) for vitamins A or C, calcium, iron, protein, or fiber.

Certain packaged food products clearly would not qualify as “healthy.” Several years ago, for example, I served as the nutrition expert for a legal case against the manufacturer of an unhealthy food product which used the “healthy” claim on its package label but its product clearly was not healthy.

Dietary advice has evolved over the years and the definition of “healthy” on a package label has gotten tricky. If a food product contains mostly nuts or avocados, for example, it will not qualify as “healthy” because it will not be low in fat (even though the type of fat is healthy). Yet a fat-free chocolate pudding or a sugary cereal such as Frosted Flakes may, indeed, meet the “healthy” definition.

This issue has played out recently.

Back in 2015, the manufacturer of a fruit and nut bar received a warning letter from FDA that they were not allowed to label their product as “healthy.” After petitioning the FDA, stating that their product contained fats, the FDA reversed its course allowing the company to continue to use the “healthy” claim on its label.

Now, FDA will be working to redefine what the “healthy” claim on a package label should mean.

FDA states:

Redefining “healthy” is part of an overall plan to provide consumers with information and tools to enable them to easily and quickly make food choices consistent with public health recommendations and to encourage the development of healthier foods by the industry….

…Public health recommendations for various nutrients have evolved, as reflected by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the updated Nutrition Facts label. For example, healthy dietary patterns now focus on food groups, the type of fat rather than the total amount of fat consumed and now address added sugars in the diet. Also, the nutrients of public health concern that consumers aren’t getting enough of have changed.

Effective immediately, FDA will allow manufacturers to use the “healthy” claim for the following products that: 1) are not low in total fat, but have a fat profile makeup of predominantly mono and polyunsaturated fats; or
(2) contain at least ten percent of the Daily Value (DV) per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) of potassium or vitamin D.

As a nutritionist advising clients and specializing in portion control, claims on food labels can often be misinterpreted. For example, just because a food product is labeled healthy or low in fat, for example, does not mean that you can eat as much as you want. And more is not usually better—it simply means you will be taking in more calories.

And, healthy foods such as whole fruits and vegetables which do not bear package labels are among the “healthiest” foods you can buy.

Nonetheless, I do feel that the “healthy” definition is outdated and does need to be revised in light of current nutrition advice.

FDA now wants to know what you think. Some points FDA wants stakeholders to consider:

    • What types of food should be allowed to bear the term ‘’healthy?”
  • What are the public health benefits of defining the term “healthy”?
  • Is “healthy” the best term to characterize foods that should be encouraged to build healthy dietary practices or patterns?
  • What other words or terms might be more appropriate (e.g., “nutritious”)?
  • What nutrient criteria should be considered for the definition of the term “healthy?”

You can weigh in here.

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Larger serving sizes on food labels may help us eat less!

Below is my blog for Huffington Post  “Larger serving sizes on food labels may encourage us to eat less.”

You can also read it here.

Food label-new 2014

In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled plans to overhaul the Nutrition Facts panel required on packaged foods in the U.S. Among the proposed updates, FDA plans to revise the serving sizes to reflect more typical serving sizes. Because portions we currently eat are larger than food label serving sizes, consumers may be confused when reading labels and trying to determine ow many calories are in the foods they eat.

Indeed, typical portion sizes available in the marketplace have increased over the past several decades. Should serving sizes on food labels reflect these larger portions?

As FDA states, “These updates would reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.”

While there are clearly advantages to FDA requiring that manufacturers use larger, more realistic serving sizes, unintended consequences may arise. For one, consumers may view food label servings as recommendations even though they are not.

Indeed, according to one study, larger serving sizes may encourage people to eat more.

Now, a new study found that larger serving sizes on food labels will encourage us to eat less and may actually help fight the obesity epidemic.

Researchers from Georgetown University conducted several experiments published in the journal Appetite and found that subjects viewing larger serving sizes on packaged foods thought that they were more representative of typical marketplace portions. The subjects also had a lower health perception of the foods with larger serving sizes on the labels. Finally, subjects shown a larger serving size label ate less than those shown the current serving size label.

The authors wrote, “The studies find that the specific nutrition information provided with foods has a significant impact on perceptions of health, guilt, and estimated caloric intake. Providing consumers with easier to comprehend and more accurate information on all foods served in all contexts could reduce overeating. Decreasing caloric intake, through changing perceptions of health or increasing guilt, could improve public health.”

They concluded that “the proposed increase in serving size on Nutrition Facts panels could lower the consumption of high calorie foods.”

Let’s hope that this occurs in reality if FDA does, in fact, increase the serving sizes on food labels (which the agency proposed doing for nearly 17% of packaged foods).

For example, FDA is proposing to increase the serving size of ice cream from ½ cup to 1 cup. Rather than view the 1 cup serving as a recommendation, I hope that instead, consumers pay attention to the calories and view the larger serving size as a signal to eat less.

Whatever FDA ultimately decides to do, I think it is important that the agency follow up with an education campaign to teach people how to use the serving size information on a label and how to better understand the relationship between serving sizes, calories, and weight gain.

And, I hope that the agency pro-actively address concerns about any possible unintended consequences that some consumers view the serving sizes as recommendations for how much to eat.

As I suggested in my comments to FDA, “I strongly recommend that the FDA include clarifying language on the label by either: 1) denoting the serving size provided as a “typical” serving size or 2) including a footnote to clarify that “the serving size is based upon the amount typically consumed, and is not a recommended portion size.”

While we patiently await the release of the updated food label, I suggest paying attention to how much food is actually on your plate, eating fewer processed foods, and more fruits and vegetables. And, as USDA’s food guide myPlate suggests, fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit.

After all, no one got fat eating to many carrots.

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Foods to enjoy without added sugar

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post 10 foods to enjoy without added sugar.

You can also read it HERE.

The problems with consuming too much added sugar seem to be getting lots of attention these days. From contributing to inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, sugar has been recently singled out as a cause for concern.

The recently released report from the Dietary Guideline Committee (DGAC) suggests, for the first time, that Americans limit sugar to 10 percent of calories. That would translate into roughly 200 calories–and 12 teaspoons–for a 2000 calorie diet. TheWorld Health Organization (WHO) also suggests we limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of total calories. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that manufacturers be required to declare the amount of “added sugars” on food labels to help consumers understand how much sugar has been added to a product.

Indeed, we love sugar and eat too much of it. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. Sugar contributes to the sweet taste of our foods and drinks while also acting as a preservative in many of our favorite foods.

Acting as a food sleuth, I recently visited a local New York City supermarket with a reporter for a public radio station for a story on hidden sources of sugar. While we know that sugary drinks such as soda and sugar-sweetened cereals such as Fruit Loops are a main culprit of added sugar, it is often surprising to people when they hear that sugar is also lurking in breads (even whole-wheat varieties) as well as salad dressings (even healthy sounding ones especially low-fat varieties.) Perusing the supermarket aisles, while we were sure that we would see lots of sugar in fruit punch, ice cream, and candy bars, we also found considerable amounts of added sugar in many commonly consumed foods including waffles, ketchup, teriyaki sauce, and granola.

So what can we eat without too much added sugar?

Below are 10 foods to enjoy without having to worry about exceeding sugar budget.

1. Plain Greek yogurt
Finding the added sugar on your cup of yogurt can be tricky these days which is one of the reasons why the FDA wants to require manufacturers to list “added sugars” on the food labels. While on first glance, yogurt appears to be high in sugar, unsweetened yogurt contains only the naturally occurring simple sugar lactose, called milk sugar. Flavored yogurts, on the other hand, often contain lots of added sugar, in addition to the naturally occurring sugar. Many sweetened yogurts contain several teaspoons of added sugars.

2. Apple
While fruits contain sugar (called fructose), it is a naturally occurring source of sugar. Apples, as well as other fruits, also contain fiber which will help you feel full without the calories.

3. Peanut butter
Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on your apple for flavor and fullness while also getting a dose of healthy fats and added nutrients. Steer clear, however, of the sugar-sweetened peanut butters. Stick to the plain unsweetened varieties.

4. Tossed salad
Fresh vegetables of all kind contain carbohydrates as their primary source of calories but you really do not have to worry about their sugar content. While a carrot may have more sugar, and therefore more calories, than a stalk of celery, vegetables contain naturally occurring sugar while also containing fiber, high water content, and a fairly low calories count. Fresh vegetables in their natural state do not contain added sugars.

5. Avocado
Throw in some avocado which contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. While avocado is not low in calories, (due to its fat content), this fruit is not a source added sugar.

6. Homemade salad dressing
To skip the added sugar often found in store-bought bottled salad dressings, I suggest making your own. Ingredients such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and lemon are very low in sugar.

7. Grilled Salmon
Top your salad with grilled salmon which contributes protein as well as heart-healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon as well as other fish and high protein foods are not a source of added sugars. However, watch the teriyaki glaze, soy sauce, and breadcrumbs which can contribute sugar, salt, and added calories. Drizzle your salmon with olive oil and spices to save on added sugar and salt.

8. Air-popped popcorn
Hungry for a mid-afternoon snack? Skip the candy bar and choose air-popped popcorn instead. Air-popped popcorn is low in sugar and calories and contains fiber which will help you feel full. And, what’s even better, is that you can enjoy a generous serving. 3 cups of popcorn constitutes one serving from the grain group.

9. Hummus and veggies
Hummus contains protein which helps you feel full. Enjoy this yummy chick pea spread with your favorite fresh vegetables.

10. Sparkling water
Hydrate yourself with sparkling water instead of soda and other sweetened drinks. Add a twist of fresh lemon or lime for a hint of flavor. Many sparkling waters are flavored naturally without any added sugar. Read labels carefully, however, because some healthy sounding beverages often contain added sugars. And those without added sugar often contain artificial sweeteners, which aren’t much better than sugar.

We would love to hear some of your favorite foods which are low in added sugar?

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Nutella sued over misleading health claims

Nutella sued over misleading health claims.

Ferrero USA, the manufacturer of Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread, is paying $3 million to settle a class action lawsuit as it had been misleading consumers to think that it was “healthy.” No surprise that many clients I have counseled over the years have considered Nutella a healthy spread, both for themselves and their family.

As reported in the Huffington Post, the law suit is being filed by a California mom who realized she was feeding her 4 year old “the next best thing to a candy bar.” She had been lured by some of Nutella’s ads into thinking that it was, indeed, a healthy product.

You too can receive a piece of the action. If you purchased Nutella in recent years, you are eligible for around  $4 per jar.

In addition to being fined, Ferrero must now change the product’s labeling and marketing statements. Nutella’s website no longer makes any health claims. Instead, the company now focuses on the tag line – “Breakfast never tasted this good.”

While you may enjoy the taste, Nutella is hardly health food.

Here is the nutritional breakdown per 2 tablespoon serving (a size of a walnut in a shell—which is quite small!):

190 Calories

11 grams fat

3.5 gram saturated fat

21 grams sugar

Sugar is the first ingredient!  In fact, just one serving of the spread contains the equivalent to 5 teaspoons sugar. The 11 grams of fat contains 99 calories making the product nearly 50% fat. It also contains unhealthy saturated fat. Saturated fat has been shown to raise cholesterol levels and may contribute to heart disease.

So Nutella is hardly “healthy!”

While you may enjoy Nutella, best to use the spread as an occasional treat. Nut butters such as almond butter and peanut butter would be a healthier choice. Instead of the sugar in Nutella, you’ll get some protein.

It is time that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) crack down on food companies who make food and nutrient claims on packages to help them fly off the shelves!

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Unrealistic serving sizes

Unrealistic serving sizes

Do you know anyone who eats only ¾ cup cereal, ½ cup of ice cream, or 1 cup of soup at a sitting? Probably not. Even children eat more than that.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group in Washington, is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise its serving-size regulations as many people underestimate serving size.

Labels for canned soup, ice cream, coffee creamer and non-stick cooking sprays understate the calories and sodium consumers are likely to eat. Canned soup, in particular, presents a clear example of how unrealistic the stated serving sizes are. Labels for Campbell’s Chunky Classic Chicken Noodle soup, for example, indicate that a serving size is 1 cup — a little less than half a can with 790 milligrams of sodium. But in a telephone survey commissioned by CSPI, 64 percent of consumers surveyed said they would eat the whole can at one time and only 10 percent of consumers say they eat a 1-cup portion!  Chances are you are getting closer to 1500 mg sodium. Ice cream serving sizes are also unrealistic. The serving size is a half-cup of ice cream—a quarter of a pint.  However, many people eat closer to a whole cup. And some people probably eat an entire pint.

In my experience counseling overweight patients, and as I wrote in my book The Portion Teller Plan, so many people underestimate how many calories they consume, in part because people think that a serving is whatever amount they eat, and pay little attention to the amount of food listed on a package label. And since typical portions have grown in size, the amount of food you usually buy these days is much more than the amount listed on a package label. After all, I have never seen an ice cream shop sell ½ cup serving. (And if they did, consumers would probably complain!) Kiddie sizes usually contain at least 1 cup of ice cream.

Anahad O’Conner from The New York Times has an excellent summary.  The foods shown above, from the NYT article, are typically underestimated by many consumers.  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/the-problem-with-serving-sizes/?ref=health

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