How To Read A Label

By far, the best way to look at a package of food in your local grocery is in another shopper’s cart. Going down every aisle is an exercise in futility. Trying to decide which highly-processed artificial food is healthier than any competing one is a process that can only end in your buying something that is defective in some fundamental way, as far as your body is concerned.

Today, the New York Times reports that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the dietician and nutrition professionals trade group, has given it’s newly created ‘seal of approval’ to the packaging for the regular and 2 percent milk versions of Kraft Singles. Kraft Singles are classified as Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product. It’s not cheese, it’s ‘cheese product’. Way back in the day a thing like this would have been required to bear the label “imitation cheese.” This cheese is as artificial as cheese can get, and it now bears the seal of approval from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It can wear the new “Kids Eat Right” label. No other cheeses will bear this stamp–not even real ones.

I have mixed emotions about this. First, even though this is not the perfect choice for a “Kids Eat Right” label, it makes more sense that it be put on an unprocessed food. However, who doesn’t realize that imitation cheese isn’t quite the same as cheese? I know the nutritionists realize this, so why give this label to Kraft over any of the other imitation cheeses out there?

But the academy emphatically denied that the label was an endorsement. “The Kids Eat Right logo on Kraft Singles packaging identifies the brand as a proud supporter of Kids Eat Right,” Mary Beth Whalen, the academy’s executive director, said in an email statement. “It also serves to drive broader visibility to, a trusted educational resource for consumers.”

See, “Kids Eat Right” is not an endorsement, it is an ad for the organization. It might look like an endorsement to the uninitiated shopper that has not read this specific NY Times article.

In the article itself I have some issues with some of the things they bring up, besides whether or not the label contains an endorsement or an ad. The author spells out issues that the average consumer is looking for, that Singles don’t have:

Consumers increasingly are taking a minimalist approach to food, seeking out products with only a handful of ingredients that are easy for a lay person to identify. Parents, in particular, are seeking out products with lower levels of salt, sugar and fat and trying to coax their kids to eat whole grains, vegetables and fruits.

This reinforces the idea that grains, vegetables and fruits are somehow more health-promoting than fats and meats. That theory is far from proven, and just because you always hear it or read it in every nutrition article does not prove it. We already get too much of our nutrition from grain, specifically wheat, corn and soy. More grain is not better, especially if it is highly processed grain, like wheat, corn and soy. Fruits contain sugar–not as much as fruit juice, admittedly, but if your child is eating sugar sweetened cereal or another starchy breakfast, then they don’t need more sugar on top of that. We eat too much sugar and you have to count the sugar in fruit, because that sugar counts. Saying that parents are trying to find lower fat foods is true, but the average consumer still doesn’t realize that lower fat foods are going to be higher carbohydrate foods, which is worse than high fat, IF WE ARE TALKING ABOUT NATURAL FATS. Not all fats are created equal.

This is why I say at the top the best place to read a label is in somebody else’s shopping cart. The very best and healthiest policy to adhere to is to not buy processed foods. Buying foods that come in boxes or bags is just asking for trouble. Health claims and product endorsements are eye-candy, but otherwise worthless when helping to make a food buying decision, unless you decide not to buy foods hidden behind labels.

…a study released this week by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut that found that many parents think fruit drinks, sport drinks and flavored waters, which contain high amounts of added sugar, are “healthy” choices for their children.

Wherever on Earth did these parents get the idea that fruit drinks are healthy?


This one contains no high fructose corn sugar. It has 31 grams of sugar in each serving. A teaspoon is four grams, so this has more than almost eight teapspoons of sugar in each cup. Your normal drink glass will hold twelve ounces, so a full glass of this will contain almost a dozen teaspoons of sugar. Sounds Essential to me.

I wrote an article about this group last year, let me see if I can find it…“And Now, For the News”, where I discussed the ties that this trade group has to the food industry. Food manufacturers are paying their bills, sponsoring their conventions, generally being helpful, and now they are advertising for the group right on their food labels. Cozy. Inappropriate? Well, I can’t make that judgement. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

Over the last few years, the academy been criticized from some of its members and health advocates over what they contend are its overly cozy ties to industry. Companies like PepsiCo, Kellogg and ConAgra regularly attend the organization’s big annual meeting, where they make presentations to dietitians, hold seminars and parties and provide free samples of their products.

So who can you trust if you can’t trust the dietician’s trade group? Trust your local farmer. Trust your local rancher. Trust your local dairy. Trust me when I say you can’t trust any processed food. Feed yourself real food.

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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