I bet that many of you whom follow calories and/or macros pick certain foods up in the grocery story each week to see if they coincide with your health goals and limitations. And while doing so, you put the ones that don’t fit into your lifestyle away, while putting those that fit into your cart. While it may seem like such a simple task, the fact of the matter is that the nutritional labels in which we depend on and trust, are most usually wrong. That’s right… in spite of all FDA regulations which go about labelling of foods, there is still much discrepancy between what is on the label and what is in the food in which you are consuming. So being that I caught one of your favorite brands in the act of doing so, and that NOTHING has been done in a week to remediate their faulty labels, I felt it best to blog about it, as many DEPEND on these labels not just for maintaining weight, but also for other conditions as well.
Just as a Disclaimer…
So first thing is first, but if you haven’t seen my blog, you may not be aware of the fact that I have two brothers; one who is a Type 1 Diabetic and another one who has severe allergies to corn, bananas, avocados, peanuts, etc. And then you have myself, a girl who is following IIFYM and strength training to combat anorexia while using her knowledge as a Pre-med and nutrition minor. So although I am not certified as a dietitian, I am using both the experiences and knowledge that I have in writing this. Prior to writing this, I also confirmed with a fellow dietitian of the inaccuracy of the label in which I had caught open-handedly. So while I may not be a CERTIFIED dietitian, I am catching the things in which many company dietitian’s do not. You can either take it or leave it, but what I do have is the confirmation from the company that the dietitian missed it, and that it is indeed wrong…
And even in spite of this, nothing has changed in a week.
Nutrition Label Confusion
Before I go into the lies which SOME food companies tell, I felt it best to discuss the confusion surrounding nutrition labels which can potentially harm one’s progress and/or one’s health.
- Serving (Tbsp and Cup Vs. Oz and G): One of the things that had always got me stuck was the fact that a serving of cereal or cottage cheese in cup size was drastically different from that in oz or grams. In all honestly, one serving of cereal as measured in oz or grams was much smaller than the amount suggested in cup size. And the fact is that many deal with this issue, and not just because of discrepancies between measuring tools, but because of things such as settling of the product. So oftentimes, people will measure out a cup of cereal that may be 110 calories by the label, but in all actuality, be about 140 calories given the time in which the product may have settled. And while it may not be that important in the scheme of things, doing so on an everyday basis and/or multiple times per day can.
- Serving Size: Oftentimes I’ve seen people who fail to pay attention to the serving sizes when the bags and/or containers are smaller. They see a greek yogurt that is similar in size to the one in which they normally get and/or pick up a “Snack” bag of cereal thinking that the container or the bag contains the calories listed on the label without realizing that it contains MORE THAN ONE SERVING. Another thing that I see happening often is that others pick “healthy, diet” products from the store without even realizing how small the serving may be based on the picture on the box.
- Ingredients: Because of my brother’s food allergies, and my own desires to eat as little processed foods such as sucralose as possible, I have come to see many things on nutrition labels that I oftentimes dislike. I see that several of the foods in which he is allergic to being hidden as other ingredients rather than claiming that there is corn. I also see products that claim to be all natural and naturally sweetened, and yet contain monk fruit and/or stevia. And while they are technically natural sweeteners, I oftentimes feel that this labelling is somewhat deceptive for many individuals whom are trying to understand nutrition.
- Good, Excellent Source of XX or No XYZ: While its great to reach for products that claim to be a good or excellent source of a nutrient, oftentimes it results in those picking out a “diet” food rather than a non-processed food such as fruit. People oftentimes see products that claim to be good sources of calcium and think that they can rationalize having that as opposed to having milk, when in all reality, the products in which they are reaching for are seemingly lacking Vitamin D and other nutrients that are necessary to absorb the calcium in the milk. Another thing that I often see, and many times is the exact reason that we need to bring our own things to family get-togethers, is the fact that many times products are misguidingly labeled as not having high fructose corn syrup. Oftentimes this leads others to pick an item up without even realizing that the product still contains some type of corn or sugar in another form.
- Cooked vs. Uncooked AND Ripe vs. Unripe: I also feel that the nutrition labels on fruits and veggies can be somewhat confusing to those whom are just starting out. Oftentimes veggies that are eaten cooked are measured cooked, but then count as the amount raw rather than the amount cooked. I also find people whom aren’t aware of the fact that the ripeness of the fruit does seemingly change a bit of the nutritional information, even though it’s not really sure of what amount.
- Serving Size and Calories Among Different Products Not Standardized: Another thing that can oftentimes be confusing is in comparing two or three similar products, as the amount in grams is often not standardized. If you compare two boxes of cereal or even two different bars of dark chocolate, you will see varying calorie content along with nutritional data. You may see this and choose according to which contains the least xx (carbs, protein, fats) or least calories, but oftentimes, that which is fewer calories ends up being the smaller amount serving size.
- PRODUCTS CHANGING FORMULAS: Another thing which I notice is the fact that products and companies oftentimes change their products without even telling consumers of doing so. In my experiences even with trying to get ketchup for my brother, we have noticed this MANY times. One product which we had gotten for the longest time changed from a corn-free formula to high-fructose corn syrup. And once this occurred, the same company came out with a natural product lacking high-fructose corn syrup, but with a higher price as well.
So as consumers, I feel that we need to be conscious of the foods in which we are eating and understand the way in which nutrition labels should be read so that we can better serve our health. But as much as we try to look out for our health, the fact is that many nutrition labels flat-out lie, making it more difficult to do so.
Calculation of Nutrition Labels
If you have not majored and/or minored in nutrition, or have not done macros, then I bet you are unsure of how to check for the accuracy of nutrition labels. So before I go on about this I felt it only proper to give a quick lesson into checking nutrition labels.
- Take the grams of protein and carbohydrate listed on the label and add them together then multiply by 4
- Take the grams of fats listed on the label and multiply by 9
- Take the two amounts from step 1 and 2 and add them together, and what you get is the calorie amount.
This is a general idea of how it is calculated, but if we were to make it more complicated, I would need to explain to you the data behind why companies often subtract the calories from dietary fiber off the calories listed in the label. And while I will leave this for a later time, all that you need to know is that what I’ve noticed is that subtracting dietary fiber off labels is not standardized among companies. Some take off the calories from the label, while others keep them on and account for all the carbs.
Nutrition Labels KNOWINGLY INACCURATE
Given seven or so years of dealing with my anorexia, my brother’s Type 1 Diabetes, and my other brother’s food allergies along with my nutritional background from college, I have become a pro at decoding the nutritional content suggested by the labels. And while I had noticed some discrepancies among the calories and the macro content before, I had not realized much of the significance until after I started doing IIFYM and strength training. During this time, I’ve found more than a few labels which have been labelled wrong. I’ve noticed several companies whose calorie content did not match the macros within the 20% which is alloted and have noticed two products from the SAME COMPANY with different macros and yet the same calorie content. And although I have yet to contact the several companies whose labelling must have been wrong, I finally contacted one.
The one company which I chose to contact was one in which has been accurate with all of their other labels, and is one that is often trusted among Instagrammers alike. Because of this, I thought that it must have been something such as dietary fiber or some other regard that I must have been doing wrong. But when I asked of this discrepancy, the only answer that was given is that the company was trying to figure it out and that the nutritional data was indeed faulty as there was only one dietitian on board.
I’m not going to lie, but this comment in itself made me a little mad, as I couldn’t seem to understand how a dietitian could miss this crucial fact in this product, and yet I could. But I figured that I trusted the brand and that they made one mistake, and that yes, they would remediate it within a week.
In spite of this, however, its been a week. A week in which nothing has been done to bring awareness to this issue nor change the labelling of the product itself. Nothing has been done other than promoting the product wrongly as being 110 calories when it it’s at least 30-40 kcal off from that amount. *And besides this, but I can’t seem to also be upset by the fact that its been yet another week for me job searching with no luck…trying to find a job like this RD, and yet not have to go into debt to become certified as an RD.*
Why Does it Matter?
Although I will continue to buy from this company, and truly still wish them the best, I wish that they would be more focused on wellbeing and honesty so that they admit to their mistakes rather than to hide them. While it may just be xx calories, xx carbs, xx protein, or xx fats to some, for others its more than that, as it’s their health. For those whom eat the product multiple times a week, it could potentially mean either harm to one’s goals and/or one’s health. For those whom follow macros and/or calories this discrepancy may lead to several fluctuations that can not be explained. It may lead you to be entirely off on your macros without even realizing it, and cause changes that may even lead you to restrict the food intake the next week. For those whom struggle with diabetes, their numbers could be severely off, as how much can you really account for if the label is wrong?
What it All Comes Down to Is This…
In spite of all the regulations of the FDA, there are many nutrition labels which are misleading and many nutrition labels that are downright wrong. While it is our responsibility to be more aware of how to properly read the labels and to choose products accordingly, I feel that it is the FDA’s and food company’s responsibility to properly label the products. And while there may be a few HONEST mistakes, these should be made aware of by the consumers rather than hidden.
So although I have yet to find a job similar to that of the RD who mistakenly forgot to calculate calories and/or macros, what I do hope is that this knowledge brings light so that changes can occur.
With Love Always,