Original. Ranch. Honey. Reduced Fat. Baked Snack Reduced Fat. Multi-Grain. Low Sodium. Big. Baked Snack Crackers-Mini’s 100 Calorie Pack. I just wanted Wheat Thins. What the heck does this all mean?

Food labels are probably just as common to you as snacks are, but it wasn’t always this way. The labels that appear on all the food you purchase in the United States came to be the way they are only a short time ago.

In December 1992, legislation passed instituting the most extensive labeling ever.

According to “The Tufts University Guide to Total Nutrition,” here’s what it all means:

Serving Size: Serving Sizes must reflect the amount of the food people actually eat. This was implemented to stop food companies from making serving sizes so small it would trick the consumer into thinking the fat or calorie content was much lower.

Calories: This tells you how many calories are in the food per serving. Here you can also find how many of those total calories per serving come from fat.

Saturated Fat: This is the type of fat that is likely to cause clogged arties which may lead to heart diseases. According to government guidelines, saturated fat should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake.

Dietary Fiber: Dietary Fiber is great for you overall. Some evidence shows that fiber may reduce the risk of heart disease and through indirect ways may help some people who want to lose weight. Healthy people should consume between 20 and 30 grams of dietary fiber a day.

That’s the breakdown of the mysterious items on the Food Label. But there is more that isn’t printed on the label.

Free: This means the product contains none or negligible amounts of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, or calories.

Reduced or Less: The product contains 25 percent less of a nutrient (fat, calories, etc.) than the regular product.

Light or Lite: The product contains one third less calories or 50 percent less fat than the regular product.

Low Fat: The product contains no more than three grams of fat per serving.

Low Saturated Fat: The product contains no more than one gram of saturated fat per serving.

Low Sodium: The product contains no more than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Low Calorie: The product contains no more than 40 calories per serving.

So back to that nutty, wheat baked cracker we all love. Which is the better option? The Reduced Fat, with 130 calories per serving with 35 of those being calories from fat, is the best option unless you opt for the new 100 Calorie Pack which controls your portion size so you are only consuming 100 calories with 25 of those calories being from fat.

So, unless you can control yourself from eating the entire box during just one episode of The OC, I would recommend the 100 Calorie Pack. We all know that a box of munchies easily disapears after a TV program! Happy snacking.

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