The Hard Way w/ Joe De Sena

Spartans, here’s a riddle for you: What do lengthy financial reports and food labels have in common? Answer? To some, they might seem a bit boring and overly detailed, but they’re both really important. In this podcast, you’ll learn about some of the key ways to read a food label so you can quickly zero-in on the most relevant information impacting your health
If you only had access to one piece of information in a food label, what would it be? That would be “serving size.” Food companies know that many consumers are calorie-conscious, so one way to minimize the caloric “profile,” if you will, of their products is to describe calories per portion and not per package.

Be careful to check the serving size. It might be less than you imagine. Just look at the sample portion sizes most nutritionists show their patients … they’re much smaller than what Americans typically eat.
Knowing this, check the calories per serving. If a package contains “four servings” and you eat the whole package, that’s 4 times the number of calories (and sugars, and carbs, etc etc) than is listed on the package. That’s a lot!

Luckily, there is more information to be gleaned from food labels and packaging. A lot of it is in shorthand, so you should know exactly what they mean.

First, there are different ways to designate a food as having fewer calories than one might normally encounter or expect. In descending order, they are:

“Reduced.” This means that the product has at least 25% fewer calories (or a specified nutrient) than the ordinary product.
“Low calorie” is used to designate 40 calories or less per serving
“Calorie free” means having less than 5 calories per serving

… there also the related terms “fat free” or “sugar free,” which mean ½ gram of sugar or fat in a serving

For “low cholesterol,” you’ll find 20 milligrams or less of saturated fat per serving
“Low sodium” has 140 mg or less of sodium
“High in” designates an item having 20% or more of the “Daily Value” of a certain nutrient or vitamin per serving
… and in between the “highs” and “lows,” you’ll find the term “Good source of,” which means the product provides at least 10-19% of the “Daily Value” of a certain nutrient or vitamin per serving

There’s a lot of details to remember – too many, it seems, to bother looking at when you’re rushing home from the supermarket to feed your kids, complete chores, pay bills, head for a workout for instance. Instead, pick a quiet moment or two at home when you’re not in a hurry and do some light reading. Choose a few items like cereal, granola bars, or a treat like ice cream and flip through the food labels you see. Read carefully and you’ll learn what to look for when you’re making important choices for your health.



“The Basics of the Nutrition Facts Label,” eatright: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, December 8, 2017,, accessed April 2019.

Durish Mozaffarian and Diyi Shangguan, “Do food and menu nutrition labels influence consumer or industry behavior?” STAT, February 19, 2019,, accessed March 2019.

“Serving Size vs Portion Size: Is There a Difference,” eatright: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, December 18, 2017,, accessed April 2019.

“Understanding food nutrition labels,”, March 6, 2018,, accessed March 2019.

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Producer: Marion Abrams, Madmotion, llc.
Writer and Host: Nada Milosavljevic MD, JD

© 2019 Spartan

Direct download: 26_HEALTH_FoodLabelsPart1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:30am EDT