Labels might miss some ‘healthy’ foods

Running in to grab a few groceries can be like leaping hurdles.

Dodging oversize carts with sidecars for kids, trying to find barbecue sauce often not on the aisle marked sauces (that’s where the spaghetti sauce is located), and making an attempt to choose healthier products by reading food labels can really slow you down.

According to the Time Use Institute, the average length of time Americans spend grocery shopping is 41 minutes (not including finding your parking space).

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is making moves to amend the use of healthy-sounding claims on food packages. Turns out these marketing terms might not always be the best shortcuts for finding healthy in a hurry. You might actually miss a few if you don’t take the time to read the nutrition facts label and ingredients list.

The current FDA definition for “healthy” includes limits for total fat per serving. So, under FDA rules, foods high in heart-healthy unsaturated fat, including nuts, salmon, avocado and olive oil, might not make the cut to add “healthy” to their labels.

But, now we know that it’s the type of fat we consume, not necessarily the total, that makes the difference in health and nutrition, so the FDA is working to update the label lingo to reflect more current science.

What about natural?

You also may see the word “natural” on food labels and restaurant menus. The FDA has no official regulation for use of this term, but they do keep an eye on how “natural” is used.

From the FDA’s website: “The FDA has considered the term ‘natural’ to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.”

Healthy dining out

As a registered dietitian looking for healthy menu choices, I lean toward grilled or lightly sauteed meat or fish, served with grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.

A longtime favorite healthy entrée is the sautéed trout with lemon, spinach and artichokes served at Anis restaurant with crusty French bread and a little bit of butter.

A delicious new discovery for healthy eats when dining out are the spicy peri-peri prawn tacos with avocado and mango salsa served at Yebo Beach Haus.