Posts Tagged ‘label’

Unchain the Nutrition Facts, Chain Restaurants!

April 15th, 2016 No Comments Tags: , , , , , ,

I woke up this morning reading about “….why health advocates want calorie counts on your menu and in your face” on the CBC website. Ahhh yes, my favourite subject “menu labelling” on a sunny Friday. Who needs an espresso to wake up with when there’s a headline like that – thank you world!

Fact: Ontario chain restaurants must post calorie counts on menus by 2017. In my opinion this move is ‘good from far, but FAR from good’. Hear me out will you??

Food Package Labelling – Canadians and Americans have been exposed to and are used to having the accessible array of nutritional information on food package labels for over a decade. Industry’s argument that giving more information than only calories will cause confusion is a foot dragging tactic that makes no sense whatsoever. This information is NOT new. As a consumer and health expert, I’m left scratching my head wondering why the food package sector needs to disclose all of this information and the fast food sector does not. There are people who want this information, need it and use it.

Why is the Fast Food Sector exempt? Because of this lack of convenient disclosure of nutritional information, the fast food sector is like the wild west. If you have read any of my posts on this topic one thing will jump out at you in spades: the numbers are absurdly astronomical. Check these posts out: Mulling Over Menus; Blizzard to Cool You; Summertime ScoopAwareness is Bliss. When this array of information is eventually disclosed in an open and user-friendly fashion, this sector will be motivated to reformulate their offerings. So mandating disclosure of this information is good for consumers who seek it and good for everyone else because in time I’d wager many of the offerings’ nutritional info will improve and be easier to swallow…. on many levels.

Multiple Health Epidemics – You have been living under a rock if you didn’t know our world is facing multiple health epidemics. Knowing how many calories is in your food is a start, but we need full disclosure of chain restaurant offerings, the same as what’s on the food labels – why should we expect any less as consumers? The industry will argue about how difficult it is to make this info available. Please! Yes it’s true a menu cannot post nutrition facts tables with their menu board. Given human ingenuity however, I’d wager we can come up with a solution that is doable.

Consumers’ Changing Habits – Convenience and Fast Food – We know that consumers’ habits have changed dramatically being time starved and seeking convenience. We also know that people are eating out more and more where it has become routine and not just a treat. Because of this people really need to know what’s in their food if they want it. As I have often said – awareness is bliss. Anyone who has driven by a fast food restaurant at dawn or dusk has seen the drive thru line snake out of the parking lot. I don’t think the cars are empty, do you?

So folks, we need to keep banging the gong on this one. We deserve to know what’s in our food, the same information that is available on food package labels. Don’t settle for anything less.

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Posted in Eating Vortex, Foodie Fundamentals, Francy Rants, Miss Behavin', Policy for the People, Who's Zoomin' Who?? | No Comments »

Heir Condition – Food Labels & Kids’ Food

August 18th, 2015 No Comments Tags: , ,

Well folks, this will be my final instalment about food product labels for a while. By now you are well aware that the deadline to submit your comments about Health Canada’s latest proposal for food labels is August 26, 2015. I trust you will weigh in with your valued feedback given how rare this opportunity is. I weighed in about my initial thoughts a while back then again a few weeks ago discussing the need for clear information for added sugar and rethinking their portion size plan, ending my post encouraging you to “…weigh in for the betterment of our health and for generations to come.”

I have done more thinking on this from the perspective of new parents purchasing food for infants, toddlers and children. You may know I used to be a paediatric dietitian at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. You don’t yet know I’m about to become a great aunt. I had the opportunity to catch up at a family gathering recently with my nephew and his wife Surf and Nature Girl. They have a bun in the oven due as they celebrate 5 years of marriage. This little fireball will be part Irish, part Scottish and part Italian, codename Pancetta(o). This gives me a new reason to view this topic from a new and very important perspective with our baby on my mind, hmmmmm.

I took another look at Health Canada’s food label proposal and realized that toddler foods do not have to list industrial trans fat. We know unequivocally that industrial trans fat is bad for every Canadian especially kids. In addition, I stand by my comments about needing added sugar to be on its own line of the Nutrition Facts table. While grocery shopping this past weekend, I decided to do some label sleuthing with my trusty iPhone camera of some of the infant and toddler foods.

I found some interesting sounding products from “Mother Hen”, “Love Child Organics”, “Baby Gourmet” and that trusty “Heinz” that I was raised on before being fed my Mom’s famous meatballs.

Brooding Over Baby Food
I assumed the most benign product would have been the Heinz Peaches meant for babies. Sadly I was dead wrong. In a 4.5 ounce bottle, those peaches were 100 calories with 25 grams of sugar. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Because the added sugar does not have its own line on the panel (nor will it, if this Health Canada proposal goes through). I was left wondering why these numbers were so high for such a simple food.

I then sleuthed the internet for the nutritional info for a fresh peach of a similar size and volume. I found that 1 medium peach (150 grams) has 59 calories with 13 grams of natural sugar. This must mean that 3 teaspoons of added sugar was in that jar of peaches. This folks, is meant for babies. Keep in mind the benchmark recommendation of added sugar for MEN is 6-12 teaspoons/day. Good grief….

Toddler Hack Snacks
I did more meandering around the grocery store and found some “First Food Organics” yogurt yums for kids 12 months or older. “Organic sugar” was the 4th ingredient on the ingredient list. The noted serving size was 7 grams with the total sugar being 4 grams/serving. This might seem low, but over 50% of each serving is sugar. How much added sugar is in this product? It’s impossible to know. Again parents would benefit from seeing an added sugar line on the label, don’t you think?

The Happy Meal is Making Me Sad
Once I got home and put my groceries away I decided to do more nutritional number sleuthing. This time I surfed on the McDonald’s website looking at their meal for kids, namely the Happy Meal. But you might be asking, isn’t this blog post on food product labels for packaged foods? And my answer would be YES. Yes, but I like to remind consumers that only half of our food supply is mandated to have the nutritional information available for consumers which includes packaged goods. Food sold at fast food outlets are NOT mandated to have this information readily available. So may I remind you as a consumer that we should be demanding this information for ALL of the food we consume – packaged goods AND fast food.

Nothing makes me more sad than tallying up this Happy Meal combo. This included a cheeseburger, small fries, root beer and strawberry yogurt tube your little McNugget will consume 670 calories, 23 grams fat, 930mg sodium and 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons). Younger kids who consume this food far surpass what they should be eating of negative nutrients.

This cheap meal is targeted at kids yet provides a gut buster full of negative nutrients that parents can’t readily find out about. If parents knew better they would do better. Like I always say “awareness is bliss.” I’m sure by now this Happy Meal is no longer making you smile.

What to do? What to do? What to do?
There’s still time to weigh in to the Gazette 1 process, as the deadline looms closer – August 26, 2015. If you agree with me, tell Health Canada you want to know how much added sugar is in products you’re considering purchasing. Tell Health Canada you demand to know the deadly industrial trans fat in your food especially those made for your toddler. And for all of our sake tell Health Canada you want to know the same information of what’s in packaged foods as fast food. Exercise your right to speak up. Our new baby and all kids deserve better!

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Tabling the Food Label, Time to Weigh In

August 5th, 2015 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

Anyone who has followed me on T & T and read my book has heard me proclaim “awareness is bliss” many times. Having a deeper knowledge of what’s in your food whether it be packaged goods or restaurant food is essential when you’re trying to eat better or get a handle on your handles. In fact in Chapter 7 of Skinny on Slim I suggest fab 4 (not 44) changes to make with your diet. Getting in the habit of reading food labels is one of the fab 4 suggestions.

A mammoth study was conducted at Washington University looking at people’s label-reading habits and their impact on weight loss and weight control. They found that subjects who lost the greatest amount of weight habitually read the Nutrition Facts table on food products. This shows us that knowledge is power – we do better when we know better.

You may recall that Health Canada surveyed Canadians about food label proposed changes last year that I generally agreed with. However this year they revised what they proposed on the food label. This will go to Gazette 1 with a comment period by August 26, 2015. I was rather blunt with my feedback on these latest suggested changes in my post entitled “Proposed Food Label Changes: Good from Far but Far from Good!” It is rare for Health Canada to make such sweeping changes to the label, you’d think there was an election coming… Food labels can be consumers best friend by providing an array of important nutritional information, so I take this opportunity to weigh in very seriously and I hope you do too.

In short I do not agree with two aspects of their proposal:

Getting Wise with the Serving Size?
Health Canada is proposing to standardize the serving size on the label. When it comes to comparing nutritional information of similar products, this makes things a lot easier for consumers – I agree with that aspect of their proposal. What I am concerned about is that they’re basing servings on usual intakes. Usual intakes of whom you ask, well that would be usual intakes of men. I have 2 problems with this maneuver. The first is the fact that in general (aside from teenage boys and athletes) men’s requirements are higher than the rest of the population. This would miscue more than half of the population of Canadians, a majority of whom are already overweight or obese. Next, more than 60% of Canadians are either overweight or obese so it is my assumption that they’re eating more than they should, so making this change would display usual intakes of men, a majority of whom are eating too much. This makes no sense to me whatsoever.

I feel dismayed at times that we already have an obesity epidemic and diabetes epidemic on our hands and I become very concerned what this change of serving size (if it goes through) would do for public health. What is your interpretation of what a proposed standardized serving size mean to you? Consumer perception is key. Other experts I know feel these usual intake estimations are too large and worry as well. It’s vital we all weigh in during this process, make your voice heard and take part!

Proposal of Sugar Hits a Sour Note
One of the suggestions was around added sugar so consumers could ascertain how much is in a product. You probably already heard that many notable health organizations such as the WHO and Heart & Stroke Foundation have made public recommendations to encourage consumers to eat less added sugar. The old adage “a sugar is a sugar is a sugar” no longer applies due to the alarm bells sounding on added sugar.

This iteration of Health Canada’s label proposal did NOT include displaying added sugar on a separate line on the label, when last year they suggested it. This one change would make it easy for consumers to know this info. When so many highly respected groups are cautioning us to reduce this, why would Health Canada not be taking the guess work out by simply listing it? Their current recommended change on the label makes it even more confusing to figure out how much added sugar is in a product. What’s your take on it?

It Takes A Village…
So folks DO take the time to weigh in prior to the August 26, 2015 deadline of what YOU think of this iteration of what is being proposed on food product labels. It can take a village or a country to weigh in for the betterment of our health and for generations to come.
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Enable with the Food Label

October 23rd, 2013 1 Comment Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was undertaking my weekly grocery shopping recently when I overheard a conversation between a mom and her son. They were in one of the long beverage aisles oozing with a plethora of juices mostly, so I slowed down to check some best before dates to listen in, wink wink! Okay so call me a nosey parker but this was perfect fodder for T & T, right?

It would seem that sonny boy picked out the iced tea from the sea of juice choices and was giving his mom the squeeze, or so he thought. So instead of declaring a flat out “NO” this Ninja mom used the food label to help them decide whether it was going to make the grade and into the cart and down their gullets. The exchange was brief. There was no gnashing of teeth, long faces or arguments. This was an open and shut case and voted on unanimously. Bravo!

To me this was like listening to angels singing as they reviewed the ingredient list then the nutrition facts table together keeping the discussion objective and above board. I wish I had a medal in my purse to whip out and bestow upon this wise fire cracker mama – ta da! “Way to go mother of the year!” This brief exchange got me thinking about how the grocery store is such a perfect place for everyone to learn just a little more about the food they choose week after week.

To me, the grocery store is where the rubber meets the road where your food and nutrition goals get met or dashed. Don’t you think? It’s a perfect place to start “moving your cheese” to try something new, cheese included! It’s a practical classroom for kids and adults to learn about food, food groups, counting, choosing and enriching their bodies and minds. Kids take these experiences through life and use all they gained in their favour when they’re launched into the big world out there.

So on this fine day this mom enabled her son to make a decision about a drink choice using the food label, equipping him to make more decisions about food. So what was your cart full of this week? Was it full of fresh produce and all of the food groups to fuel up breakfasts, lunches, dinner and snacks? Or did you make a U turn down the junk aisle and brought home pillow sacks of deep fried, salty nothingness? You know that whatever you bring home it will get eaten and not only by alleged company dropping in. Balance it out. Make a list. And set you and your family up all week to thrive this harvest season.

When in doubt, become enabled with the food label! Now if only we could find out what’s in the food at those fast food outlets…… hmmmmmm.

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Posted in Foodie Fundamentals, Miss Behavin' | 1 Comment »

Few Focused Foodie Fundamentals in Skinny on Slim

April 24th, 2013 No Comments Tags: , , , , , ,

So many diet books have a long menu of food “don’ts” that they turn your life on it’s head until you say uncle. These restrictions and rules make you hungry, listless, cranky and crave food you can’t have. They’re often difficult to adhere to in the short and long term. They certainly build a negative relationship with food, far from establishing that love story with food we should strive for.

  • In my new book Skinny on Slim I outline some food fundamentals for you to consider that could be pivotal. This is discussed after many other very important aspects of your lifestyle are addressed. Food isn’t the central focus ushering you to successful weight loss. It is one important aspect of many.
  • Allow all food to fit, in time you won’t go bonkers with bon bons because you’re allowed everything.
  • Take 6-9 Minutes to change from a Food Court Jester into a Brown Bagger, you will have time left over to fit in a few 15-minute intervals to move and decompress on your break.

There are numerous healthy and stealthy suggestion in Skinny on Slim. It’s also available on i-Tunes, Kobo/Chapters, Barnes & Noble, Diesel and Sony.

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Posted in Eating Vortex, Foodie Fundamentals, Miss Behavin', Successful Loser Logic, Who's Zoomin' Who?? | No Comments »

Best Food Forward – Get the Facts!

March 24th, 2013 No Comments Tags: , , ,

When you know how to read nutrition labels, shopping for healthier food gets a little easier. The Nutrition Facts table has information on the calories and nutrients in a specific serving size of food. You can check the serving size and compare it to how much food you actually eat. The % Daily Value (% DV) on the Nutrition Facts table shows you if a food has “a little” or “a lot” of a nutrient. For example, 5% DV or less is a little of any nutrient, and 15% DV or more is a lot for any nutrient. You can use the % DV to compare food items and make better choices.

When you’re shopping, read food labels to compare brands. Look at the ingredients list. Check the Nutrition Facts tables to compare serving sizes, nutrient amounts and % DV. Choose foods that have more vitamins, minerals and fibre, and less fat, sodium and sugar.

To get more tips on reading food labels and Nutrition Facts tables, visit:

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No Mystery – Excess Calories & Weight Gain

January 23rd, 2013 No Comments Tags: , , ,

It’s easy to lose sight of the real cause of weight gain with all of the finger pointing going on in the media creating distractions on the matter. For decades sugar and fat have been demonized when the devil’s really in the details.

I recently read two systematic reviews: one on the effects of reducing total dietary fat on body weight and the other on dietary sugar and body weight. These were commissioned by the WHO Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group. Findings that’ll hush those who try to strike fear in the mind of consumers dissing one or the other or both. The findings were similar showing consuming more calories than needed by dietary fat or by sugar result in the same thing – increased weight gain. No mystery is lurking here.

People may overlook that our diets are comprised of three main macronutrients – protein, fat and carbohydrate. All three are necessary in a specific balance for a healthy diet. In addition we need all of the vitamins and minerals, fiber, water as well. But fat and sugar often get a bad rap despite the fact they are part of a healthy diet.

The trick is discovering what various foods contain these elements and to avoid excess. We have a blessed food label to assist our quest to find out what’s in packaged food. We need to dig deeper to find out what’s in restaurant food. Details worth discovering indeed if you’re concerned about your weight.

When it comes to weight gain and obesity consuming more calories than we spend is the culprit. Plain and simple. Learning more about this in the context of choosing food with optimal nutrition surely helps.

As Barry White sings “…too much of anything’s not good for you baby….” especially in the context of your diet. You got that right Barry…..

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Knowledge is Power

January 18th, 2013 No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

I recently found myself travelling along the California coast. Ya those songs sure are true about California dreaming. That’s what I’m doing today…. Sign me up for surf lessons cause I’d love to spend some days riding the waves and taking it all in. Ahhhhh.

Ok so these south westerners might not have it totally right with the raw-vegan food thing written about December 31, but they sure have it right with posting calories in fast food restaurants. I was pleasantly surprised as I dashed in for a quick breakfast that lo and behold beside the price posted the food item’s calories. Plain as day. Plain and simple. And YES I used that information to shift my choice. Who would have thunk some of the offerings were sky high in the energy department? Not something I was seeking after purchasing new skinny jeans this bright new year.

Most jurisdictions do not have this information available in plain view for the patrons. Customers have to surf the net to get their facts straight leaving these nutrition nuggets of information a mystery for most. Many experts debate incessantly about making this info available, wanting more details posted, perhaps to use colour coding, and on and on the debate goes with no decisions in sight.

Let’s face it folks, knowledge is power. And on that fine day I chose an egg option that was modestly calorie dense, not a heavy weight. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. Let’s face it, we’re used to seeing nutritional information on food labels for years now on packaged food. Without any information about food served in these outlets how can consumers ever know which options are better?

Wise food for thought, that’s for sure.

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Trade-off Turnaround – Food Label Reading

January 17th, 2012 No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

A study came out some time ago showing that people who got in the habit of reading food labels lost weight. As I often say, when we know better we do better. This theme of trading off started a few months ago, let’s review this food label reading scenario and how it can work for you:

  • Ok, so you want to take a month and become aware of the calories in the food your family routinely eats. You start reviewing the food labels of the products you have in your pantry, fridge AND look up what’s in the food from restaurants you frequent.
  • You realize AHA! There are many better alternatives and decide you will gradually choose better options from this day forward. That’s the spirit!!
  • Here are some ideas: transition from 2% milk to 1% milk then to skim milk; change from cream soups to hearty bean and/or vegetable soups; choose smaller wholegrain buns from the humungo ones you usually get; scale back from the pillow sack of potato chips to the regular family size bag; etc.
  • For you who are aiming to lose weight, save yourself 250 calories each day from your masterful awareness exercise.
  • This overhaul can result in a 25-pound weight loss in a year! How great is that? VERY!!

Yes folks, awareness IS bliss!


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Posted in Foodie Fundamentals, Miss Behavin', Successful Loser Logic | No Comments »

MSG is NDG!!

July 7th, 2011 No Comments Tags: , ,

Yes folks you read that right, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is NO darn good!! Why mince words?? Just tell it like it is!!

Taste Enhancer with a Dark Side
MSG is a food flavour enhancer. Sounds innocent right?? Although it’s purpose seems so well meaning, when studied further it definitely has dark side to it so listen up. A 5 year long study was conducted. The researchers found people who started the study at a healthy weight who were also consuming the most MSG (~5 grams/day) were 33% more likely to be overweight by the end of the study. What’s more, these mega-MSG consumers were NOT eating more calories. Oy veh, now that’s a bit of a concern, don’t you think?? Hmmmmm.

This weight gaining relationship is being studied further, so the rationale about why this occurs is still speculative. It is thought; however, there is interference with appetite regulating hormones. Who needs to mess around with this sort of thing……

Knowledge is Power, Be Choosy
Well, what can YOU do about this?? For starters, you can read the labels of packaged foods you buy. Focus in on the ingredient list to see if MSG appears there.

This nugget is important to keep in mind if you eat out a lot. If you eat out it is not as easy to find out if the offerings contain MSG. Menu labelling isn’t required by law at this point in time. If you eat at a sit down restaurant with wait staff, don’t be shy to ask if MSG is used in the food you’re planning to order. Shake the attitude that you don’t want to be a bother, after all, look at the money you’re spending as a patron. And if they don’t have this information available to you, go somewhere else that DOES provide this information.

My mantra is awareness is bliss. In this case it’s true in spades. After all, who knew??

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