The definition of nutrition is, “The process of nourishing or being nourished, especially the process by which a living organism assimilates food and uses it for growth and for replacement of tissues.” This sounds simple, but in reality, especially in the U.S., nutrition is a very complicated subject. It is best to think of a diet as you would a budget on a spreadsheet. When you add or take away one item, you affect the bottom line as well as other numbers on that sheet.
Popular fad diets would like to have you think that eliminating one of the macronutrients, e.g., carbohydrates, from your diet would help you lose weight. They are right in the fact that eliminating many of the refined carbohydrates currently consumed by Westernized countries can help lower weight. But instead of replacing these foods with protein and fat, they should be replaced with more healthful, high-fiber foods. There are many carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, that actually help you feel more full on fewer calories. Furthermore, the fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals these contain are beneficial.
Take a look at many of the new low-carb products that are springing up in grocery stores and restaurants everwhere. Compare them to regular versions and see if they are really lower in calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium.
Here are a few examples we have found and would like to mention for label-reading lessons:
• Pasta Sauce – Ragu Brand Carb Options touts, “5 g net carbs per serving, sweetened with Splenda.” Initially we thought that pasta sauce being sweetened with Splenda could be a good idea since this sweetener has been used successfully in many other products to lower calories. But the label proved us wrong! Take a look at the box above and you will see that the low-carb option is almost double the calories of a fat-free pasta sauce. The Ragu Carb Options brand has added fat to lower the amount of carbohydrate per serving. When it comes to choosing pasta sauce, the focus should be on fat and sodium, not carbohydrate. In our example, the Carb Options sauce has 27 times more sodium than the sauce without added salt. FMI see www.carboptions.com, they have other foods, in this brand, too.
• Low-Carb Ice Cream – If you are looking for a way to enjoy your favorite treat with fewer calories, don’t fall for low-carb options without investigating the Nutrition Facts label first. In many cases, these products are not the lowest in calories in their class and they are high in saturated fat. Low-fat is usually a better option for lower-calories as in our example above. Of course with these treats, the biggest concern after choosing the lowest-calorie product should be portion control. A half-cup serving should be measured. If it is served in a smaller bowl with fruit it looks like a bigger serving!
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.