THE HEART OF THE MATTER
a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA) 

Week 622.6

Guest Edith Hogan, reg. dietician, spokesperson, American Dietetic Assn.

Topic Food labeling

Host/Producer Steve Girard

NEMA My parents did without so much information...whether it was TV news, the internet, or nutrition labels on food. But as we try to understand what makes us healthy, knowing what the nutrition label now required on food packaging means is very important. Today we have Edith Hogan, of the American Dietetic Association, to tell us what we can learn from the labeling, with just a few seconds effort.

HOGAN Well, food labels can help you know how each food, including your favorite food, can fit into a healthy, balanced diet. So, I think that's why it's important...they give us information, and particularly the new food label...give us information we did not have before.

NEMA I find the nutrition label very helpful...let's go through the things people can see on these labels....one of the categories we've been focusing on of late is fat...

HOGAN Well, the fat category is just one of the areas...you know, you have a couple of things with information about fat on the new label. First of all, you find out the total calories in a serving...and now the panel also lists how many calories come from fat. These amounts alone are not enough to see how the food fits into a total diet. You sort of have to look at the rest of the label, but what it basically means, calories from fat means...that that amount of fat calories in that food. And we shouldn't look at fat alone, any more than we should look at any particular nutrient. It's the total nutrition profile that you want to look at. And so I think That's one of the important messages. And the other is that this label is based on, quote And average diet, which is...based on a 2 thousand calorie diet. And your daily values may be higher or lower, depending on your caloric needs and level of exercise and your special nutritional needs. So you need to remember to take that into consideration.

NEMA Serving size is something that has people confused...they'll look at the numbers for calories and fat before they realize that there were three servings in the bag...

HOGAN Right....serving sizes now are uniform, where in the past they weren't. And these are basically helpful now because they're in what they call Household measurements...they put them as being 1 cup, as well as 248 grams. To most people, 248 grams doesn't mean much. 1 cup does. And another thing that I think is important is when it says Percent of daily values. ThatÕs kind of confusing. People look and see how much fat is in it, and then they see this percentage, and that basically is the recommended daily amount. it's a percent of the daily amount that you need of each of the nutrients. And it's based again on that 2 thousand calorie diet. And so, if you eat more than the 2 thousand calories, you have to increase that percentage of daily value, and if you eat less, you decrease it.

NEMA The calories from fat is a good way to check the percentage of total calories derived from fat...which will give you a good indication whether it's low or high fat....

HOGAN ThatÕs a good way of putting it...

NEMA and the percentage is a much better way than remembering how many grams you've had....

HOGAN And I think the other thing, for example, is if you choose a food with a daily value of 10% from fat, this means that you still have 90% of of the daily value of fat to enjoy in other food choices. And I think that's something people have to remember....the total amount of fat they can have. And not look just at one figure.

NEMA I guess I'm focusing on the fat...but what should people know about the further breakdown on the label of Fat into Saturated Fats...

HOGAN Well, you know I think fat...sort of ....We've gotten so focused on fat that we forget to realize that fat is an important nutrient. And what you need in terms of your total fat is the same thing that you need in your total diet. And That's balance and moderation and variety. And you need a variety of fats to get all of the nutrients from those different kind of fats. Saturated fat comes primarily from animal sources. And so That's one type of fat. The others are monosaturated and polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats sometimes are listed on the label...they are liquid at room temperature, they come from plant sources. Mono, for example would be olive oil. But what it means is your total calories from fat should be about 30%, so if you break that 30% down evenly, you have 10 percent of your calories from each group. And so if you find on a label that your saturated is 10% of the total fat...That's good. And if It's a little more, That's okay, because all foods can fit. It's just a matter of balancing, at another meal, something That's lesser in fat.

NEMA Some folks are still confused by a couple of things that we see a lot of these days...computers and nutrition labels....

HOGAN I think That's true, and I think maybe if they just look at the things ....the big categories. And I think there's some information on the label that people forget to look at...which are 14 vitamins and minerals that are on the label that we didn't have before...your calcium. And we know that practically, almost everyone in this country now does not get enough calcium, especially women. And now we have new recommendations for people who are older, that we didn't have before. So, the calcium is important...vitamin A, vitamin C and iron are also listed. And fiber, which is another thing we don't get enough of...particularly the individuals you mentioned are probably senior citizens, and they really come up short on the fiber, and we know that's really protective against many diseases. So they need to look on the label for the amount of fiber.

NEMA When people see carbohydrates on a label, they think of potatoes, beans, bread, cereal...but that category includes fiber, of course, and sugars, too

HOGAN Right, and I think that's true...but I think the idea isn't to get caught up in the calculating the numbers and percentage everyday. Or decide that some foods are good and some are bad, but to understand what you're eating, and how it fits into an overall diet. And there's a lot of good information on the label that can help you do that.

NEMA we've dealt with the information on the back of the package...now, let's get to the stuff on the front...

HOGAN Well, I think the other thing is that now we're going to get more and more, what we call the Health claims. They come on the front of the package. Things that say Reduced fat, High fiber, Sugar free and alight. Now we have government standards that strictly regulate such claims. And if you look on the front of the package and see this, before you even turn over and look at the label, it will allow you to quickly identify foods which can help you achieve specific dietary goals....such as, you want a lower fat product, you want a higher fiber product....and we know that food can be part of your overall plan to reduce the risk of disease, such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and so forth, and these help you do that.

NEMA For a while there, it was kind of confusing because of the front labeling...

HOGAN Yes, I think claims were kind of exaggerated, and you just got to the point...well...the information really isn't on that label to tell you whether or not it's okay to eat a specific food. It shows you how any and all foods can be part of a balanced diet. And you can eat any food, as long as your total diet is balanced, with a variety of foods in reasonable amounts.

NEMA Well...it just seems so complicated these days...you know, to avoid having too much of one thing in your diet...

HOGAN And I think many people believe that balancing their diets will require really drastic changes in what they eat, and that's really not the case at all. I think many people want to reduce the amount of fat in their diet, as you mentioned. And for an average, 2 thousand calorie a day diet, this means that you would only need to reduce the amount of fat you eat by about 10 grams a day, in order to meet this guideline...and it's simple, by just choosing Reduced fat versions of two or three foods that you already eat. You know, like reduced calorie salad dressing, using skim milk on your cereal, instead of 2 % or whole (milk). And maybe switching from a pepperoni pizza to a vegetable pizza, and as you mentioned, pretzels, perhaps instead of potato chips. Those are just sort of simple steps that you can take that can really make...those are small changes, and they make big improvements when they come to your diet.

NEMA

HOGAN And I think the other thing is making those substitutions, kind of changes. But what I tell people is, You can add foods, instead of only cutting back on foods to balance your diet. You know, if you add whole grain products that contain more fiber, such as whole wheat bread and whole grain cereal....an additional serving, you can add a low fat dairy product of cheese...and you can add those foods and still stay within your calories and really achieve some healthful benefits.

NEMA Any changes in the nutritional information system in the wind?

HOGAN Just recently, FDA approved a label for psyllium, which is a particular type of insoluble fiber that's found in certain cereals, such as high bran cereals, and I think that's an example that they have proven that soluble fiber does reduce the risk of heart disease, but you have to remember to make some of these changes, especially with something like fiber...you must add extra fluids to your diet. Especially water..because you don't want to do this overnight, you want to do it gradually, so your system can accustom itself to it.

NEMA Our thanks to Edith Hogan, with the American Dietetic Association.

SPOT 15 years in the prevention of heart disease, stroke and trauma - The National Emergency Medicine Association. This show is just part of what NEMA does. We send out millions of pieces of prevention information to people around the country, give grants to organizations in research, public information and emergency services, and have been instrumental in the creation and expansion of the Chest Pain Emergency Room movement. To play a role, call 800-332-6362.

NEMA Thanks for joining us for today's program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at www.nemahealth.org/ ...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I'm Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.