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10 supermarket trends.

The supermarket is changing ... or so it appears. You can't stroll down an aisle without seeing some new or refurbished food with less sugar, no trans fat, or more whole grains, fiber, omega-3 fats, antioxidants, calcium, B-vitamins, whatever.

Some labels carry subtle claims like "Smart Choices Made Easy," "Sensible Solution," or "Well-Being & Energy." Others go all out, boasting that their foods can help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure or cancer.

Are the new foods truly healthier or are we just seeing more spin in the supermarket? It's a little of both.

If it's not Sugar Free Milanos, it's whole-grain Cocoa Puffs. If it's not calcium-enriched Goldfish Crackers, it's Pringles in 100-calorie packs. You can get cereal, oatmeal, and orange juice with antioxidants. Yogurt comes with added fiber or cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. Pasta, eggs, and bread have added omega-3 fats.

Why the sudden flood of healthy-sounding foods? It's a perfect storm--a confluence of forces striking the food industry:

* The pressure to sell health. Food marketers must be feeling the heat. With an obesity epidemic that's left two out of three adults and one out of six children overweight, companies know that they're vulnerable to lawsuits or regulations.

Obesity isn't the only issue. By January 1,2006, all Nutrition Facts labels on food packages will have to disclose trans fat, so some companies are trying to eliminate it by then.

And it's not just fear that's motivating the industry. When companies like General Mills boost the whole grains in their foods, they must see a marketing opportunity. Ditto for companies that are adding antioxidants, calcium, and other nutrients.

* Leftovers from the low-carb craze. Last year, companies tripped over themselves trying to churn out foods to please low-carb dieters. The craze launched a rush to replace the usual carbs (sugars and white flour) with whole grains or "good" carbs (like artificial sweeteners, fiber, and sugar alcohols) that purportedly don't raise blood sugar levels.

When the craze petered out--not surprisingly, since many lower-carb foods were no lower in calories--companies still had plenty of reformulated products in the pipeline, especially low-sugar foods made with Splenda (sucralose). It's the first artificial sweetener that hasn't been dogged by safety questions. And unlike NutraSweet (aspartame), Splenda works in cooked foods. Now it's showing up everywhere.

* Looser claims. Lawsuits, the business-friendly Bush Administration, and pressure from the food industry have led the Food and Drug Administration to allow more health claims on foods.

The FDA used to require "significant scientific agreement" before a company could claim that a food could reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, or other illness. Now it allows those claims when the evidence is skimpier, as long as the label says something like "scientific evidence suggests but does not prove...."

Mix these three forces together, sprinkle in the need to get an edge over your competitors, and you've got a revolution in the supermarket. Or do you? Are we talking healthier foods or just trans-free Oreos in smaller packages? Here's how to spot the difference in 10 trends that have invaded the grocery store.


"All General Mills Cereals Are Made With WHOLE GRAIN!" scream the boxes. GM made a big splash with its announcement last September, but the change isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds.

General Mills replaced some, but not all, of the refined flour in some of its cereals like Trix, Golden Grahams, Lucky Charms, and Rice Chex with whole grain. (Whole-grain cereals like Wheaties weren't touched.)

But few of the reformulated cereals have more than 1 gram of fiber per serving. Fiber isn't the only reason to eat whole grains, but it can be a good indicator of how much whole grain a food contains.

What's more, even if a cereal had no white flour, that alone wouldn't make it a health food. Cereals like Boo Berry, Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, and Cocoa Puffs are nearly half sugar. With or without whole grains, they're nothing more than breakfast candy.

General Mills aside, whole grains are showing up throughout the supermarket. Boboli makes a 100% Whole Wheat pizza crust. Thomas' and Pepperidge Farm make 100% Whole Wheat English Muffins. Lean Cuisine's line of Spa Cuisine entrees uses only 100% whole-wheat pasta or brown rice. San Giorgio and Ronzoni make Healthy Harvest pasta that's part whole-grain (the companies won't say how much).

Keep in Mind

Claims may sound alike, but they don't all mean the same thing:

* "100% whole grain" means no refined flour.

* "Made with whole grain" means the food may be made with either a lot or a little.

* "Whole grain" may mean that only 51 percent of the flour is whole-grain. (That's the miniature a food needs to carry a health claim like "whole grains may reduce the risk of heart disease.")

* "Good source of whole grain" means there may be as little as 8 grams of whole grains per serving. An "excellent source" means as little as 16 grams per serving. (That's what General Mills has asked the FDA to require. Several companies are using those minimums while waiting for the feds to set official levels.)

So a breakfast cereal--which usually weighs 30 to SS grams per serving--could be "a good source of whole grain" if only 15 to 25 percent of its grain is whole (and 75 to 85 percent is refined).

* "Multigrain" means a mixture of grains, so it could be mostly refined grain plus a sprinkling of whole grains.


"Not for weight control," says the tiny type on the label of Pepperidge Farm Sugar Free Milanos. That's for sure. Each cookie has only 3 fewer calories than a regular Milano, even though the regular's 4 grams of sugar are gone.

The same "not for weight control" (required by the FDA for "sugar-free" foods that aren't low-calorie) appears on SnackWell's Sugar Free Fudge Brownie or Oatmeal Cookies. No kidding. At 90 calories a cookie, it's no diet food.

The low-carb craze has left its legacy. Fewer consumers have blind faith that any food with a carb claim will restore their college physique. But they do seem to recognize that excess sugar is no friend to anyone's fanny.

Also fueling the sugar-free boom: companies can sweeten their foods with Splenda (sucralose), which the Atkins and South Beach diet books recommend. At this point, Splenda's manufacturers can't keep up with demand.

Keep in Mind

* Is it lower in calories? Sometimes. Expect half the calories in lower-sugar drinks like Minute Maid Light and Tropicana Light 'n Healthy orange juice, which replace half the juice with artificially sweetened water. Ditto for Pepsi Edge and Coca Cola's C2, which also have half the sugar.

But beyond beverages, you can't assume that cutting sugar means saving calories. Each Sugar Free Entenmann's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie, for example, has only 3 fewer calories than its regular counterpart. And General Mills Reduced Sugar Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal has only 10 fewer calories per 3/4-cup serving than the regular.

In contrast, you save about a quarter of the calories by switching from regular to Pillsbury Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Hershey's Sugar Free Chocolate Candy, Chocolate Candy with Almonds, and Dark Chocolate Candy and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups also save you about a quarter of the calories versus a similar serving of the regular versions.

Why not more? Most companies replace the sugar not just with artificial sweeteners, but with sugar alcohols (like maltitol), polydextrose, inulin, maltodextrin, and other carbohydrates. They're safe--though the sugar alcohols can have what the labels delicately call "a laxative effect." And while most of the sugar substitutes have fewer calories than sugar, they're not calorie-free.

* Has the serving size changed? If you calculate the calorie savings, make sure you're comparing equal servings. For example, both Kellogg's 1/3 Less Sugar Frosted Flakes and regular Frosted Flakes have 120 calories, according to the labels. But if you eat 3/4 cup of each, the regular still has 120 calories but the 1/3 Less Sugar has only 90 calories.

And once you adjust to a similar serving size (1/8 cake), Entenmann's Sugar Free Butter Loaf has about as many calories as its regular All Butter Loaf Cake.

* Does it use only Splenda? Minute Maid Light orange juice, Breyer's CarbSmart ice cream, and many other foods use both Splenda and acesulfame potassium, a sweetener that may not be safe. Always check the ingredients list.

* Is it junk anyway? If you're talking about healthful foods--like orange juice, yogurt, and whole-grain cereals--it's worth looking for less sugar. But cookies, chocolate candy, and refined-grain cereals are junk foods with or without sugar. The last thing you need is an excuse to pop an extra Milano in your mouth.


"New! 0 grams Trans Fat" boasts the label of York Dark Chocolate Dipped Cookies. Hershey slaps the same claim on its three Milk Chocolate Dipped Cookies (with Almonds, Almond Joy, and Reese's).

"Trans-free" is showing up on more and more labels (whether or not the food ever had trans fat). And manufacturers of some foods that contain trans seem to be overhauling their recipes to get rid of it by the January 2006 deadline, when all Nutrition Facts labels must disclose trans.

Less trans is good news, since the fat--which comes largely from partially hydrogenated oil--promotes heart disease at least as much as saturated fat does. But don't assume that all trans-free foods are a gift for your heart.

Hershey's new Chocolate Dipped cookies have about 5 grams of saturated fat per serving (that's two cookies at 80 calories each). Who needs a quarter of a day's sat fat in a couple of bites? And the company's sat-fat-laden Chocolate Dipped York cookies may trip up fans of York Peppermint Patties, which are one of the few chocolate candies that are fairly low in sat fat (1 1/2 grams per patty).

Keep in Mind

* Did it ever have any? It's easy to eliminate trans fat from breads, chips, oils, salad dressings, and cereals, since most never had much to begin with. It's tougher to get trans out of crackers, margarine, cookies, pastries, and cakes. Hardest of all is replacing the more-solid, trans-heavy fats in foods like chocolate coatings, cake icings, and pie crusts.

* Is it high in saturated fat? So far, it looks like most companies are replacing trans fat with an equal amount of saturated fat, mostly from palm and palm kernel oil. But too much of either fat is bad news for arteries.

A food's saturated and trans fat shouldn't add up to more than 4 grams (more is considered "high") and should preferably be 1 gram or less (that's "low"). One gram doesn't sound like much, but with a sat-plus-trans limit of 20 grams a day, it adds up.

* Is it really trans-free? "Trans-free" or "0 grams trans fat" means less than 0.5 grams of trans per serving. But if a serving of, say, three cookies has 0.49 grams of trans and you eat, say, six cookies, you're getting close to one gram of trans. That's not trivial.

An advisory panel to the FDA recommended earlier this year that the agency set a limit of 2 grams of trans fat a day (for people who eat a typical 2,000-calorie diet). So watch out for foods--even "trans-free" foods--that have partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients list, especially if you think you'll eat more than the serving size.

* Is it junk anyway? Just because your cookies, chips, or doughnuts are trans-free, that's no excuse to sink your teeth in.


How does Dannon get fiber into its new Light 'n Fit Yogurt with Fiber? Many people will assume that it's from the apple, peach, or strawberries pictured on the labels.

In fact, it's not the yogurt's fruit, but its maltodextrin, that adds 3 grams of fiber to each 1/2-cup serving. Maltodextrin is what scientists call a functional fiber--a non-digestible carbohydrate that's isolated from foods, rather than the dietary fiber that occurs naturally in foods. (In theory, functional fibers should have some benefit, but it's too early to say whether they all do.)

Maltodextrin is just one of many functional fibers that are popping up in dozens of foods, thanks, in part, to the low-carb craze. (Manufacturers don't count fiber in their "net carb" totals, and some fibers can replace the bulk that sugars add to foods.)

Other functional fibers: Breyer's CarbSmart ice cream has 3 grams of fiber per serving from polydextrose, a chemical combination of dextrose (corn sugar) and sorbitol (a sugar alcohol) that's poorly digested (which is what makes it count as fiber). Quaker boosts the fiber in its Take Heart Oatmeal with inulin, an extract of chicory root.

And dozens of breads now contain cellulose, a functional fiber supplied by ingredients like oat hull fiber, wheat fiber, pea fiber, soy fiber, and cottonseed fiber. ("Light" breads used to get their cellulose from wood pulp.)

Functional fibers are safe, but they may not confer all the benefits of fruits, vegetables, and wheat bran, which is the fiber-rich outer layer of the wheat kernel.

"My guess is that these isolated fibers are low in the phytochemicals, antioxidants, and other constituents of wheat bran," says Joanne Slavin, a fiber expert at the University of Minnesota. "When you isolate fiber, you get rid of as much of its phytochemicals as you can."

Keep in Mind

* How much fiber? Women need 25 grams of fiber a day (21 grams if they're over 50). Men need 38 grams a day (30 grams if they're over 50). The typical American gets half that much.

* Is it naturally occurring fiber? The evidence that fiber can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer comes almost exclusively from studies of people who ate dietary, not functional, fiber. So your best bet is to get most of your fiber from wheat bran, whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit.

* Is it functional fiber? It's not clear what isolated fibers can do, but so far, it looks like cellulose does, maltodextrin doesn't, and polydextrose and inulin may help prevent constipation (though cellulose doesn't work as well as bran does).

* Could it cause cramps or diarrhea? The FDA requires foods with high levels of some sugar alcohols to warn consumers that "excess consumption may have a laxative effect."


"Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts ... may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease," says the label of Planters NUT-rition Heart-Healthy Mix.

"Suggests but does not prove"? Are consumers supposed to rush to the library to evaluate the evidence themselves?

Until the early 1980s, food labels couldn't mention high blood pressure or a disease like cancer or heart disease. Then Congress passed a law that allowed claims about disease (called "health claims"), but only if the FDA determined that the claim was hacked by "significant scientific agreement."

No longer. The FDA now also allows claims based on weaker evidence (so-called "qualified health claims"), as long as the claim contains a phrase like "suggests but does not prove" or "the evidence is limited and not conclusive."

So far, the FDA has permitted only a few "qualified" claims for foods--nuts, EPA and DHA omega-3 fats, and olive oil. All promise to lower the risk of heart disease.

But many companies take the easy way out and use claims like "supports healthy arteries" or "promotes a healthy immune system." Because they don't mention a disease, these so-called "structure or function" claims require no approval.

It's no wonder shoppers are befuddled. According to a new food-industry study, consumers have difficulty distinguishing between solid claims--ones supported by "significant scientific agreement"--and claims based on far weaker evidence.

Keep in Mind

* Structure or function claims. Words like "supports," "maintains," or "promotes" a healthy heart, immune system, blood pressure, cholesterol, bones, etc., are usually part of a structure or function claim. They require little or no evidence. And they can appear on any food, no matter how junky or high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, or cholesterol.

* Qualified health claims. These claims say that a food "may help reduce the risk" of a disease, but caution that "the evidence suggests but does not prove," "the evidence is limited and not conclusive," or something similarly vague.

At least the FDA prohibits qualified health claims on foods that are junky or too high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium.

* Health claims. If the label says a food "may help reduce the risk" of a disease but says nothing else about iffy evidence, the claim is backed by reasonably good science and the food is decent.


"Rich in Heart Healthy Omega-3," crow the Barilla Plus pasta labels. "The ground flaxseeds in Barilla Plus are the highest plant source of Omega-3, an essential fatty acid that promotes heart health."

What's more, the labels compare the amount of omega-3s in the pasta (360 milligrams per 1/4 box) to the amount in shrimp (375 mg in 3 ounces) and salmon (1,725 mg in 3 ounces), even though a typical restaurant serves 8 ounces of salmon. "Enjoying Barilla Plus several times per week provides as much Omega-3 as a serving of fish," says the small print.

Well, sort of. Barilla Plus's omega-3s come from ground flaxseed, which is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It's not clear if ALA can lower the risk of sudden death heart attacks as well as the longer-chain omega-3 fats in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

So even if you have "several servings" of Barilla Plus each week, it may not protect your heart as much as a serving of salmon.

Barilla can still make the "heart healthy" claim because of a loophole: as long as the claim doesn't mention heart disease, it's a "structure or function" claim that needs no approval by the FDA.

Barilla is also sneaky with its serving size. The Nutrition Facts panel says that a serving is 1/8 box (about 1 cup cooked), but elsewhere on the package Barilla uses 1/4 box as one serving. That's probably more realistic, but a harried shopper might inadvertently compare the protein, fiber, and other nutrients in 1/4 box of Barilla to 1/8 box of other pasta.

Omega-3s are also showing up in spreads (like Smart Balance), breads (like Healthy Life Flaxseed), eggs (like Eggland's Best), and bars (like Odwalla GoMega). In several years, Kellogg's plans to roll out cereals fortified with DHA.

Keep in Mind

* Which omega-3 does it have? Check the ingredients list to see if the omega-3s come from fish oil or flaxseed. The ALA in flaxseed may lower the risk of cardiac arrest as well as fish oil, but it's too early to say.

And be careful. The front of the Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread package says "now with flax oil," while the front of Smart Balance Omega Plus Buttery Spread says "with ... organic menhaden oil." (Menhaden is a fatty fish.)

But only 150 mg of every 550 mg of omega-3s in each tablespoon of Omega Plus is from fish oil. The rest is from "plant sources" (the ALA in canola and soy oil). And there's no way for shoppers to tell that from the confusing label, unless they know that "long-chain" omega-3s come from fish oil and "short-chain" omega-3s come from plant sources.

* How much will you get per day? The American Heart Association recommends about 1 gram of EPA plus DHA per day (preferably from fatty fish) for people with heart disease. That's because fish oil cut the risk of a second heart attack in some studies.

Everyone else should eat a variety of (preferably fatty) fish at least twice a week, says the Heart Association. It also recommends ALA-rich foods like flaxseed, canola and soy oils, and walnuts, but doesn't say how much to shoot for.

However, the National Academy of Sciences recommends at least 1.1 grams of ALA a day for women and 1.6 grams for men. Most people can reach those levels by eating foods that contain canola oil (1.3 grams per tablespoon) or soy oil (0.9 grams). The list includes most salad dressings, mayonnaise, and anything sauteed in either canola or soy oil.


Quaker, Frito Lay, Aunt Jemima, Tropicana, Gatorade, Dole, SoBe, and other Pepsi-owned brands have a "Smart Choices Made Easy" logo on selected products.

Minute Rice, DiGiorno, Tombstone, Boca, Breakstone's, Kool-Aid, VeryFine, Crystal Light, Nabisco, Stella D'Oro, Jell-O, Miracle Whip, Louis Rich, Oscar Mayer, Planters, and other brands owned by Kraft have a "Sensible Solution" flag on the labels.

Kellogg's has a "Healthy Beginnings" program that slaps one of five logos--Heart Health, Fiber, Shape Management, Well-Being & Energy, or Pregnancy--on some of its cereals. General Mills puts symbols like "whole grain" or "low saturated fat" on the "Goodness Corner" of its boxes.

What's going on?

Stung by criticism that they're feeding the obesity epidemic by selling high-calorie junk, several food giants are trying to highlight their healthier products.

And it may help consumers to see logos on Tropicana juice, Quaker Oatmeal, and Boca Burgers, or on Light (but not regular) Oscar Mayer Wieners, Sugar Free (but not regular) Jell-O, Baked or Light (but not regular) Doritos, Fat Free or Light Done Right (but not regular) Kraft salad dressing, and Lite or Low Calorie (but not regular) Aunt Jemima syrup. If the logos catch on, they may even spur companies to develop more of those foods.

But by coming up with their own criteria for logos, companies are taking the easy way out. They've ignored the FDA's criteria for "healthy" foods, which exclude a food that's, say, low in fat but high in salt. Nor can "healthy" appear on empty-calorie junk foods, like sugar-free Kool-Aid or Diet Coke, even if the company has tossed in some vitamin C.

Instead, companies make up their own criteria for their symbols, complete with plenty of weasel room. For example, Pepsi products can use a "Smart Choices Made Easy" logo if they're "fortified and contain other wholesome ingredients." Kraft products get a "Sensible Solution" flag if they have 25 percent less calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, or sodium than an "appropriate reference product."

Translation: "Smart Choices" goes on decent foods like oatmeal and orange juice, but also on Quaker Quakes Sour Cream & Onion Potato Stix, Baked Cheetos, and Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch cereal. And "Sensible Solution" appears on Premium Fat Free Saltines, Fat Free Fig Newtons, and Sugar Free Jell-O. None would qualify as a "healthy" food because they don't have enough naturally occurring nutrients.

Keep in Mind

* Look for "healthy" foods. But since only a few companies--like Healthy Choice--make "healthy" claims, it's also worth scanning the shelves for foods with company symbols. Just remember that they may appear on slightly-better-but-still-flawed products.

* Watch out for vague promises. If the symbol makes a straightforward promise (like a "Fiber" symbol on Kellogg's cereals), it's probably trustworthy. Watch out for fuzzier, more-grandiose promises, like Kellogg's "Well-Being & Energy" symbol. The company puts it on cereals that are high in carbs (like any cereal) and are fortified with extra B-vitamins, even though there's no good evidence that those nutrients make people more energetic.

* Hit the produce aisle. Concentrate on eating more fruits and vegetables (not "fruit" snacks or drinks or fruit-and-cereal bars).


"Helps Lower Cholesterol," announces the label of Yoplait Healthy Heart (the "lowfat yogurt with plant sterols"). How?

Phytosterols are safe plant compounds that occur naturally in small amounts in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans. At higher levels, they can lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol by about 10 percent by keeping the cholesterol in your gut from being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Phytosterols are not in the same ballpark as prescription statin drugs, which can cut LDL cholesterol by 20 to 50 percent. But if you can lose a little cholesterol just by choosing one orange juice over another, why not?

When the FDA approved a health claim for phytosterols in 2000, only two spreads--Benecol and Take Control--could carry it. Now you can get phytosterols in Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice, Yoplait Heart Healthy yogurt, Rice Dream Heartwise Rice Drink, and Lifetime Low Fat cheese. And the list is likely to grow.

Keep in Mind

* How much is enough? The FDA allows a health claim on foods with at least 0.4 grams of sterols per serving, The label must explain how much plant sterols each serving contains and how much you need per day to lower the risk of heart disease (at least 0.8 grams).

* Twice a day. Phytosterols work by trapping cholesterol in the gut, so it's better to eat them at least twice a day with meals, according to the FDA.

* More isn't better. Once you exceed about 3 grams of plant sterols a day, cholesterol doesn't drop further.


Forget regular oatmeal. Quaker now sells "Advanced Nutrition for your Heart." Its new Take Heart oatmeal is low in sodium and has added potassium "to maintain healthy blood pressure" and "antioxidant vitamins E & C plus B vitamins to help support healthy arteries."

Never mind that there isn't much evidence that extra C and E protect your heart. Never mind that anyone could get the same day's worth of B-vitamins (B-6, B-12, and folic acid) from an ordinary multivitamin (though the multi would supply many more nutrients). When it comes to marketing, none of that matters.

Kellogg's uses a similar strategy to sell its Smart Start Antioxidants. The cereal has antioxidants "to support a healthy immune system," says the label. And that "could help slow' age damage to the body and help prevent disease," says the company Web site.

Again, you're better off taking a multi than getting a handful of vitamins and minerals from your cereal. The extra vitamins won't hurt you, but the extra iron and zinc may.

Each cup of Smart Start Antioxidants has 18 mg of iron and 15 mg of zinc. Take a typical multi and you get the same amount of each.

So even without what you get from other foods, that's 36 mg of iron--far more than the 18 mg recommended for premenopausal women or the 8 mg recommended for other adults. And it's not too far from 45 mg--the maximum you can take without risking gastrointestinal distress.

Similarly, 30 mg of zinc is well over the 11 mg recommended for men and the 8 mg recommended for women. And it's not too far from the 40 mg maximum. More than that interferes with the absorption of copper and may impair immunity. So much for Smart Start Antioxidants' claims about "supporting a healthy immune system."

The latest nutrient-of-the-month may be potassium. Quaker adds potassium gluconate to Take Heart and Kellogg's adds potassium chloride to Smart Start Healthy Heart. Both kinds of potassium can help lower blood pressure, but only gluconate (and citrate) can also protect against kidney stones and osteoporosis (see Dec. 2004, p. 8).

Keep in Mind

* Is it junk anyway? Who cares if Hershey adds calcium to its chocolate syrup or Pepperidge Farm adds calcium to its Goldfish Crackers? Fortified junk food is still junk.

* Do you need it? If you take a multivitamin, odds are that you don't need the added vitamins and minerals in fortified foods, which are often less than a day's worth. Exceptions: a multi rarely has a day's worth of calcium and has less than a day's worth of vitamin D for people over 70.

* Are you getting too much? If you take a multivitamin and eat fortified foods, you might get too much of nutrients like iron and zinc. That's no reason to drop the multi, though. It's more complete than the fortified food.


"Counting calories? Count with Pringles!" suggests the cheery label on Pringles Original 100 Calorie Packs.

Portion control can help dieters, but Procter & Gamble deserves the American Landfill Association's 2005 Overpackaging Award for stuffing six (overpriced) plastic tubs into each box. Smaller portions don't make snacks good for you. Pringles are mostly dried potatoes and oil--not exactly foods that Americans need to eat more of.

Nabisco's 100 Calorie Packs--Thin Crisps (wafers flavored like Chips Ahoy, Kraft Cheese Nips, Honey Maid Cinnamon, or Oreos), Ritz Snack Mix, Wheat Thins Minis, and Fruit Snacks--are mostly white flour, except for the Fruit Snacks, which are mostly sugar.

Yes, they're all low in fat, and the Thin Crisps are less fatty than original Chips Ahoys or Oreos. But they're not exactly baby carrots, peaches, and cantaloupe chunks.

Keep in Mind

* Snack on fruits & vegetables. Experts now recommend 8 to 10 servings--that's 4 to 5 cups--of fruits and vegetables a day. It's not easy to hit that target if your snacks are cookies and candy.

* Make your own snack packs. If you want portion control, fill some small (reusable) plastic containers with berries, grape tomatoes, pineapple or melon chunks, or any other fruit or vegetable. An apple, a pear, an orange, or a banana is nature's own 100-calorie "snack pack."

* Go for whole grains. For something more substantial than fruit or veggies, try a handful of nuts or some whole-grain crackers. All nine Triscuit varieties are 100 percent whole-grain, and all but the Cheddar are trans-free.

* Keep the dairy light, If you want small portions, grab a light yogurt or an individually wrapped light string cheese.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:healthier foods
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2005
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Next Article:The bath water.

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