Ingredients on the Food Label
True or False?
The first couple ingredients listed in descending order on the food label “ingredient list,” means that the product contains the MOST of the first few ingredients. For instance, if sugar is listed first, then sugar is the main ingredient in the product.
While this used to be true, it is not so now. The food industry out-smarted a lot of us. They know people are looking out for sugar on the top of the list so they put teeny tiny portions of several types of sugars in the product so SUGAR does not show up in the first couple ingredients, but listed more toward the end of the ingredient list because of the small amounts of each sugar.
Some common words for sugar include: (this list is not exhaustive)
Organic brown rice syrup Evaporated fruit juice
Corn syrup solids Crystallized cane sugar
High Fructose corn syrup Turbinado sugar
Raw sugar Maple syrup
Brown sugar Evaporated cane juice
Invert sugar Fruit juice concentrate
Dextrin Malt syrup
Date sugar Cane sugar
True or False?
To calculate “added sugar” from a food label, look for the grams of sugar listed under Sugar on the label.
Answer: True and False! It depends on the product and the ingredient list.
Example: Dates – serving size 5-6
Total Carbohydrate: 30 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Sugars: 25 grams
Would you calculate “added sugar” as 25 g because it is listed under Sugar? NO!
Read the ingredient list and you’ll find the only ingredient in the bag is dates. Dates are a natural sugar. No sugar has been added to them. Remember, “added sugars” are sugars that have been added to a product to make it sweet that are not made up of natural sugars. Fruit is a natural sugar/carbohydrate.
Example: Plain yogurt – serving size 6 oz.
Total carbohydrate: 8 grams
Sugars: 7 grams
The ingredient label reads: Whole milk and then lists several different enzymes. No sugar is listed because the sugar that is in the milk is natural sugar made up of lactose and galactose. We do not count these as added sugars.
Example: Peach flavored low-fat yogurt yogurt – serving size 6 oz.
Total carbohydrate: 23 grams
Sugars: 19 grams
The ingredient label reads: Milk, real peaches, organic brown rice syrup, pectin and enzymes. How much is “added sugar?” This is an educated guess. You must remember in the plain yogurt example 7 grams listed under sugar is from milk, a natural sugar. So immediately you subtract 7 from 19 that equals 12 g. Now you see real peaches are in the product along with organic brown sugar. You know peaches are a natural sugar, but organic brown rice syrup is not. I typically subtract ½ of the 12 to equal 6 g from natural sugar (peaches) and 6 g from “added sugar”.
Questions? I know it can be confusing, but do your best in estimation. You get a pretty good idea how much added sugar you are eating or drinking by reading the ingredients and comparing the total carbohydrate with sugar and fiber.
Remember, sugar can be addictive and children’s intake of added sugar should be closely monitored. Stay tuned for sugar alcohols and non-nutritive sweeteners and children.