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Dietitian deciphers the mystery of food labels.

Byline: Sandy Meindersma

HOLDEN -- Food labeling has stressed the number of calories from fat in food for the past 20 years, but that has not helped Americans eat less, or weigh less.

Oriol Healthcare dietitian Sue Bartolini said that many people began to believe that fat-free and low-fat foods were diet freebies that they could eat without consequence.

"In the last 20 years, people got fatter because while they were eating less fat, (they were) consuming more calories,'' she said. "We have forgotten to look at what the proper serving size is.''

In addition to tracking the amount of fat in a food, food labels are required to list the amount of trans fats for each food.

"If a food has less than half a gram of trans fats, then they can label it as trans fat free,'' Ms. Bartolini said. "If it says trans fat free, then look at the label, and look for partially hydrogenated oils. If you see that, then there are trans fats in it.''''

Ms. Bartolini presented a lesson on "Supermarket Savvy Co Decoding Food Labels'' at the Holden Senior Center recently.

She told the audience that being overweight is the leading cause of

pre-diabetes and Type II diabetes, which is the No. 1 health problem in the country.

To combat weight issues, Ms. Bartolini said focus needs to be placed on portion control.

Taking a look at a typical food label, she said the serving size is the most important piece of information on the label.

"If you define the portion size and the calories, then you can make decisions for yourself,'' she said.

The first step to weight control is to determine what the standard serving size is, and how many servings are in a package.

Also on the information label is the number of carbohydrates that a food contains, which is an important number for diabetics.

"Most women should be at 45 grams of carbohydrates per meal, and most men should be at around 60,'' Ms. Bartolini said. "It doesn't take long to get to 45 grams of carbs.''

Ms. Bartolini said there has been a change in the thinking surrounding sugar and diabetes.

"It used be no sugar at all,'' she said. "Now, some sugar is OK.''

Women should be getting about 42 grams of protein per day, while men should be getting 50 grams each day.

Good sources of protein for someone who is not able or interested in cooking a large meal include eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and peanut butter.

Ms. Bartolini said that a food with less than 5 percent of a nutrient's recommended daily value is considered low in that nutrient, while a food that has 20 percent or more of a nutrient's daily value is considered high in that nutrient.
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Title Annotation:Weeklies
Author:Meindersma, Sandy
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 7, 2014
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