Food Labels Can Deceive You

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“Dear Pharmacist,

I’m determined to stick with my New Year’s resolution to lose weight by cutting calories. Any tips to help me?”
–F.P., Tulsa, Oklahoma

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Answer: Medical studies have shown that caloric restriction is an effective way to lose weight. Caloric restriction increases the activity of PGC-1 alpha, a lovely gene in your body that improves fat burning ability, energy and thyroid function. One supplement that activates this gene is resveratrol and there are others which I discuss in my “Diabetes Without Drugs” book.

I prefer when people “edit” what they eat, rather than “diet” and by that I mean edit the oils you cook with, the spices you sprinkle, the snacks you munch on and so forth. But caloric restriction is equally important. Make sure they come primarily from fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-fed, hormone-free meats, and whole grains if you can handle the grains. Grains are a big topic because many grains have gluten, or they’ve been contaminated with fungus. Paleo diet lovers never eat grains. Regardless of your preference, my point is that excess calories come from processed and heavily refined foods so those are the ones to avoid.

Manufacturers play tricks with food labels to conceal calories. They know you’re not going to closely study food labels, especially because the print is so small to begin with. A quick scan of the calorie count could leave you consuming hundreds of extra calories without realizing it. My next examples are just the tip of a gigantic “fooled you” iceberg.

Look at soda. Admittedly, I don’t recommend drinking it if you are on a diet (even “diet” soda) but the label is a great example to enlighten you. Pick up a 16.9 ounce-bottle of Canada Dry ginger ale. It looks like one serving. (Gone are the days of the tiny soda bottles I remember when I was a kid.) Flip it over, and the calorie number on the label says 90. Not bad, right? Look again. It’s 90 calories PER serving and there are “About two.” What’s with the “about”? In actuality, it’s more like 210 calories in that bottle. Fooled you! I must applaud Coca Cola because at least they print “200 calories” in large letters on the front of the bottle offering clarity.

How about a chicken pot pie? Flip a 16.5 ounce Marie Callender’s frozen pot pie over, and you’ll see 570 calories on the label. When the cute little bubbling pie comes out of the oven, you’ll dig right in. But wait! You’ll have to cut that pie in half if you only want 570 calories, because that’s the amount per serving. Hmm, fooled you again!

To take advantage of caloric restriction benefits, stay away from refined foods and shop along the perimeter of the grocery store. Never venture into the interior aisles unless you want honey, maple syrup, coffee/tea, or nuts.

Did You Know?
Eating gold kiwifruit increases vitamin C, and reduces severity of the common cold.