Posted by: renaissance2wellbeing | May 18, 2010

Understanding Labels On Packaged Food (November 09)

   Understanding Labels On Packaged Food  

                 A Time to Give Thanks: Giving and Receiving!

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give”  ~  (The Prophet)  Kahil Gibran   

From the superlative writings of Kahil Gibran in his masterpiece, The Prophet, he spoke those immortal words, “giving of your possessions is but little, giving of yourself, gives from your essence, the eternal, “I Am”.” Giving from your essence, your Human-Beingness, your consciousness, connected to the collective consciousness, you give from a different realm, that which is connected to the source of all creation. Beyond mind, expectation, or reward, from a place of Oneness.  

In relation to the word “Thanksgiving”, let us separate it and turn it around, “Giving-Thanks”. Should we wait for November 26th to give thanks, instead of daily. I believe the latter. Therefore, approaching thanksgiving, let us give thanks for what we have, instead of, what we have not. It is important to be grateful for, that which life has given us, family, friends, health and these days, employment. November is synonymous with Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is the celebration of family, friends and food. The sharing of food is an old, traditional ritual, which brings families and people together. Since food is a major part of it, it is important to consume its healthiest form. There is a slogan for a New York City clothing store,” An educated consumer is our best customer.” To help you become an educated consumer, this month’s article discusses nutritional labels on packaged food.

Before we get to that, let us discuss foods for thanksgiving. For a healthy thanksgiving meal, we need organic fruits and vegetables, or from farmer’s markets, as they are fresher, less chemicals, and support local agriculture. Organic produce has 10-40% more nutrition than conventional. In addition, at farmer’s markets, one can get cage-free eggs, raw honey, grass and range fed meats, organic wines, homemade cakes, pies and apple cider.  If you cannot afford organic produce, you can wash conventional fruits and vegetables in a mixture of, a half cup of raw Apple Cider vinegar or, a half cup of Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide in a gallon of filtered water, and agitate with a vegetable brush. Alternatively, use a veggie-wash available at most health stores. This will go a little ways in washing-off some of those unhealthy chemicals.

In relation to organic produce, one has to be extra vigilant in washing it. Because, chemicals are not used on it, manure used to fertilize the plant, may cause illness if ingested from bacteria, and pathogens.

If you are having Tom the Turkey for dinner, at least let’s not have him pumped up on steroids and hormones, like a body builder. Instead, buy cage, hormone, and antibiotic free birds.  If you have an affinity for animals and like to save Tom’s life, use a vegetarian source, like a Tofu-Turkey. To make a Tofu Turkey, follow these directions, Tofu Turkey. It comes with stuffing and feeds 10 people.

To help with digestion, it is incumbent on us to thoroughly masticate or chew our food before swallowing. Ever mouthful should be chewed twenty to thirty times. Otherwise, if you do not chew thoroughly, it puts a lot of stress on your stomach to break it down, especially protein foods like meat. Your mouth has teeth, your stomach does not. SLOW down, chew, taste and enjoy your food. 

Also, avoid carbonated beverages as they are loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors that are taxing on the body. Drink filtered water, or, organic fruit juices: Blueberry, Tart Cherry, Acai, Noni, or Pomegranate juices (unsweetened and unconcentrated) which possess antioxidants, and mix with mineral water. Make sure the mineral water is free of sugars and sweeteners. If one wants to imbibe libations (alcohol), ideally organic would be the way to go, especially with wines as they have Sulfites and Tannins, which people can have a reaction to, and tannins may cause reflux. Some use genetically modified grapes, which are not listed on the label, so organic is the way to go. 

By incorporating these measures, one can have a healthy, holiday meal, in conjunction with nature’s healing foods. If you intend to get healthy for the New Year, this is an ideal time of transitioning from processed foods, to whole foods. By doing so, you feel satiated and nourished, as your body receives nutrients it lacks, enabling healing take place. Bon Appetite! 

        Healthy Guidelines for Packaged Food (Part 1)  

When it comes to buying packaged foods, regardless from Wholefoods, health-food stores or super-markets, the following guidelines apply. Ideally, we want to move away from packaged/processed foods. Considering, that 90% of food purchased by US consumers is packaged/processed, and 70-80% is genetically modified.

To differentiate sticker labels on produce, organic versus conventional. Produce labels use numbers called PLU (price look up code).  

PLU numbers go as follows:

  • Organic produce has a 5-digit PLU number that begins with a 9.
  • Conventional produce has a 4-digit PLU number that begins with a 4.
  • Genetically modified (GMO) produce has a 5-digit PLU number that begins with the number 8.

PLU Number Example:

Fuji Apples

#94129 Organic

#4131 Conventional

     Understanding Nutrition Labels on Packaged Food

Concerning packaged foods labeling. If products say 100% organic, organic ingredients, all natural, or any statement to that effect, there are two rules that apply.  

Rule No 1.

Never, Ever believe anything on the front of any packaged food product.  


Rule No 2.

Always read the nutrition facts label and ingredients list.  

Always read the following information on the package.  

  • Fat
  • Sodium
  • Refined sugars
  • Refined carbohydrates

In addition, be aware of the number of servings per container. 

Daily fat requirements  

  • 3 to 5% from essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6, originally called Vitamin F)
  • average intake of fat in the US is 35%  

 Recommended ranges:  

  • 10% Dean Ornish, MacDougal, Pritikin Center
  • 30% AHA, ADA, HLBL, USDA  


The first ingredient is Fat. We need to check calories from fat(CFF) as a percentage of calories per serving. The amount of calories from fat per serving on the label should be 20% of calories per serving.  

Example:(is the Nutritional Facts Label Above)

  Calories 250 (per serving)

  • 20% of 250 is 50 calories
  • The calories from fat on the label is 110,this product has too much fat.  

Next, look in the ingredients list for the following fats to avoid.  

Saturated animal fat

  •  Lard, Butter, Chicken fat, Dairy, Cheese  

Saturated vegetable fat:

  • Coconut oil
  • Cocoa butter
  • Palm oil
  • Pam kernel oil  

Man-made saturated vegetable fats:

  • Partially and hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • Interesterified fats (high stearate or stearic rich fats)
  • Margarine
  • Shortening  


Daily requirement:

  • 500 mgs
  • Average US intake 3000 to 5000 mg per day  

Recommended ranges (IOM) Institute of Medicine

  • 1200 to 1500 mg (UL(upper limit)2300 mg)
  • age 50 -1500 mg
  • age 60 – 1300 mg
  • age 70-1200 mg  

1 teaspoon of salt equals 2200 mg  

Ideally, we want 1200 to 1500 mg of sodium per day, and the upper limit should be 2300 mg.                                      

Where is the sodium in food?  

In a pie chart, is divided as follows

  • Home cooking 5 %
  • While eating (salt shaker) 6%
  • Naturally occurring 12%
  • Processed and restaurant foods 77% (hidden in the food supply)
  • Daily consumption of sodium should be 2000 mg, it should be equal to 2000 calories
  • A 1:1 ratio
  • Salt density is 1  


The average American needs about 2300 calories per day.  

Calories per day                                                              Sodium per day

    2300 cal                                                                                  2300mg

   1:1 Ratio  

Sodium Per package (example above)

250 calories per serving  = 940 mg of Sodium per serving. Too much sodium.

                                        Should be 250 mg of Sodium

Food Focus: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are on everyone’s mind this season. They seem to go hand-in-hand with the holidays, and fortunately, eating these and other sweet vegetables needn’t be limited to this time of year. Cravings for sweets can be greatly reduced by adding sweet vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips, beets, squash, turnips and rutabagas, to your daily diet. Sweet potatoes elevate blood sugar gently, rather than with the jolt delivered by simple refined carbohydrates, so there’s no energy crash after you eat them. Much higher in nutrients than white potatoes and especially rich in vitamin A, sweet potatoes offer a creamy consistency that is satisfying and soothing. They are healing to the stomach, spleen, pancreas and reproductive organs and help to remove toxins from the body. They can increase the quantity of milk in lactating women and can lessen cramps and pre-menstrual symptoms. If you don’t have any sweet potatoes in your kitchen, go out and buy some (organic and local if possible) and make the recipe below.  

Recipe of the Month: Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Cilantro  

This recipe is an eye-opener for those who find sweet potatoes cloyingly sweet or who are tired of eating them smothered in marshmallows and brown sugar. Japanese sweet potatoes, with their pale flesh and delicate flavor, are a treat if you can find them.  

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

Yield: 4 servings  


4 sweet potatoes

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro

2-3 limes

butter or olive oil, salt (optional)  


1.   Wash the sweet potatoes and bake them whole, in their skins, at 375 degrees until tender, about 40 minutes.

2.   Wash and chop cilantro leaves.

3. When sweet potatoes are done, slit open the skin and place on serving plate. Season with salt and dots of butter or a sprinkle of oil, if you like, then squeeze fresh lime juice all over, and shower with cilantro leaves.  

Forward to a Friend

It’s such a pleasure to help those closest to us become happier and healthier. Please forward this newsletter to friends, family members or colleagues who might be interested and inspired by it.  

       Healthy Guidelines for Packaged Food (Part 2)  

Refined Sugars

The next ingredient is refined sugars. The average human brain burns about 500 calories of sugar per day. The brain only burns sugar for energy.  

Preferred source of fuel for the body

  • Primary fuel source for the brain  

Sugar occurs naturally in food

  •  Fruits and vegetables   

No requirements for added, concentrated, refined sugars such as 

  • Sugar (Sucrose)
  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Barley malt
  • High fructose Corn Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Corn syrup

The problem with sugar is the form we are consuming.  

Yet these sugars account for the average daily intake of refined, concentrated, and added sugars in the diet.

  • 20% of calorie intake, 500 calories per day
  • The average American consumed 145-150 pounds of added sugars per person, per year.
  • All these sugars are concentrated
  • 1 tablespoon of these sugars equals about 50 calories.                                              

Our main concern is “Added” sugars in products, not “Total” sugars..

  • Nutrition facts label lists “Total” sugars only
  • Not “Added” sugars
  • Must limit added sugars  

Check ingredients list:

  • Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight

When it comes to reading the ingredient list on packaged food, ingredients are listed by weight. The heaviest ingredient is the first ingredient on the list, and so on.  

Healthy guidelines: 

  • Avoid any added sugars in the first 3 to 5 ingredients.  If the first three to five ingredients had any of the following in it, “dextrose, fructose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, or any other sugars”, avoid the product. 

Also, avoid all artificial (chemical) sweeteners in the ingredients:

  • Aspartame
  • Sucralose
  • Saccharin
  • Acesulfame K  

Sugar alcohols should be consumed in moderation, which may cause digestion problems: gas, bloating or diarrhea.

  • Xylitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Malitol  

Refined Carbohydrates     

Last are refined carbohydrates. Ninety percent of carbohydrate intake in the US is from white flour, white rice and white pasta.  

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of fuel for the body:  

  • The problem is refined carbohydrates.
  • They account for 90% of carbohydrate intake in the US.
  • They contain little or no fiber, vitamins and nutrients
  • Stripped of nutrients and concentrated in calories.
  • The average daily intake of unrefined whole grains in the US is one serving or less.
  • Nutrition facts labels only list “Total” carbohydrates. We are not interested in total carbohydrates, but added refined carbohydrates.                                      

Check the ingredients list  

Look for the word “Whole”

  • Sprouted whole grain products
  • Whole grain products
  • Must say the word “Whole
  • Rolled“, “stoned ground“, “cracked” equals whole grains.  


  • White
  • Wheat
  • Durum
  • Artichoke
  • Semolina
  • Bleached
  • Unbleached
  • Enriched flours  

Organic wheat flour = organic white flour.  Unless the word “Whole” is used, equals white flour.  

Bonus-check the fiber content

  • Look for-3 grams per 100 calories, which is a good indication it is made with whole grains”.                             

Other Deceptive Manufacturing Practices  

In addition, food manufactures deceive us in other ways. Here is an example. Let us look at the following product made by Hain, “Vegetable Broth“, stating that it is 99% fat free on the label, meaning it should have 1% fat in it. Let us look at the Nutritional Facts label.  

                                                    Nutritional Facts

Serving Size 1 Cup (245gr)

Serving per container About 2 

Amount per serving:

Calories 30                                                        Calories from Fat (CFF) 20

                                                                                                        % Daily Values

Total Fat 2gr                                                                                        3%

       Sat Fat 0.5g                                                                                     3%

Cholesterol 0mg                                                                                      0%

Sodium 140 mg                                                                                       6%

Potassium 0mg                                                                                        0%

Total Carbohydrates 0 mg                                                                        0%

    Dietary Fiber 0mg                                                                                0%

    Sugar   0 gr

Protein 2 gr

How they figure out it is 99% fat free?

  • The weight of fat = 2 grams (total fat)
  • The total weight of the product = 245 gr  

2 divided (long division) by 245 equals .8%, which is about 1% fat, and the product claims 99% fat-free, by WEIGHT. There never has been a guideline for fat based on weight.  

Since we have been getting health guidelines in the US. All health guidelines have asked us to limit fat as a percentage of calories. Yet, every product labeled in the world, lists fat as a percentage of weight. Two different system with absolutely no relationship what-so ever. Calories from fat were not listed on labels until the last update. We do not want to know calories from fat, or fat based on weight;we want to know percentage of calories from fat.  

Now, to figure out how much fat this product really has, let us do some calculations.  

Calories 30 (per serving) by1% fat (product states it is 99% fat free, 1 % fat).

1 divided by 30 equals, .3 calories from fat (CFF).

Calories from fat is 20 (CFF), as a percentage of 30 calories (per serving), is about 67% fat. This product states on the front to be 99% fat free, in reality it is 67% fat.   

How they deceive us?  

If you have a cylindrical container. It is empty, and you put one tablespoon of oil e.g. (olive oil) in it. One tablespoon of Olive oil weighs 14gr and is 120 calories from fat (CFF), or 100% fat. For a food manufacture to sell a product that is 100% fat, would not sell well. How can they make it more palatable to sell?  By adding 24oz of water to the container, which is 750 gr (weight). Water has 0 calories, and 0 calories from fat. Nevertheless, water has WEIGHT. Every product labeled in the world, list fat as a percentage of weight.  

Let us do the calculations:

         1 tbs of Olive oil = 14 gr

         24oz of water   = 750 gr

         Total weight is     764 grams per serving  

Now take the weight of the fat (14gr) and divide it (long division) by the weight of the serving (764 gr), and you could sell this product as 2% fat or 98% fat-free by WEIGHT. By adding water, it dilutes out the percentage of fat by weight.   

Milk (the deception)

Milk that states it is 1% fat, it is actually 24% fat. If it is 2%, it has 34% fat.  


How can we out-fox food companies that deceive us with dislabeling, and unhealthy ingredients in their products? By incorporating whole-foods in our diet, and preparing them ourselves. When we eat out in restaurants, fast food outlets, or elsewhere, the preparation of food is in someone else’s hands.  To them, it is just another meal, and their energy suffuses it (positive or negative). In addition, they may not employ good hygiene practices. Moreover, there is a high probability it has lots of sodium, and other unhealthy ingredients. That is why we should prepare our own food, as we control what goes into it. It is not difficult, and takes little effort to prepare. As a holistic health practitioner, I can help you with that. Not only is it healthier to prepare your own food, but economical.  

It is time to consume whole-foods on a regular basis. There is nothing more intimate than our relationship with our food. Food and water is the only thing we bring into our bodies. It is incumbent on us to be mindful of what we bring into the body. Being unmindful of food choices, defiles this sacrosanct temple or body of ours, eventually leading to illness or disease. The choice is ours, spending that extra time and money now, or a lot later. Health is wealth, who needs auditing by the coroner. Happy Thanksgiving .   



  1. […] processed, packaged food. But if you do purchase packaged foods, read my previous newsletter on understanding nutritional labels. As I have noted before, “never, ever, believe anything on the front of any packaged food […]

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