Thursday, June 9, 2011

Watch Your Portions

If you ever put any time into reading labels on food, you'll know that there's a lot of valuable information there when it comes to sorting out how that food fits with your nutritional plan. However, there are some very deceptive practices that I find a bit underhanded.

For example, most cereals list Carbohydrates, but under that heading they display only fibre and sugar. If the total fibre and sugar doesn't match the total grams of carbs, whatever is left over is starch. Your body treats starch the same as sugar. So add that number to the sugar grams to get a real perspective on how much sugar is in your cereal. It's often much higher than you thought.

There's a tradeoff, of course. But I use this guideline: if the total of sugar + starch is more than the total fibre, I don't buy it. There may be lower sugar, but if once you add the starch the number gets up there, it isn't worth the simple carbs just to get some fibre. Eat regular oatmeal instead.

Portioning is the biggest deception on food labels. Every food label is listed according to a serving size, but experience shows that almost nobody follows that serving size. For example, a popular "no fat" cooking spray is allowed to say it contains no fat at all. However, the serving size on which that is judged is "1/3 Second Spray."

Ever coated a pan with this stuff? Did it really take only a third of a second? No, probably more like 3 seconds. And in that 3-second serving, there's fat. Plenty of it...and not the healthy kind either.

Cereal is another great culprit for this. Most cereals will give you a serving size of anywhere from 1/2 a cup to 1 cup. A cup of cereal is not a lot. So, chances are you're getting a lot more sugar and starch than you thought you were.

Do this: pour yourself a bowl of your regular cereal (no milk yet). Next, pour some more cereal into a 1-cup measure. Then pour your bowl of cereal into a big measuring cup and see how much you normally eat. I'm betting it's a lot more. Multiply the nutritional profile on the label by that serving size, and see what you get.

Then go back to bacon and eggs.


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