Foodie Fun Facts: Do You Know What You're Eating?

Foodie Fun Facts: Do You Know What You're Eating?

Did you know that we at Earth Smart Solutions are clean freaks?  We’re not saying that our kitchens are spotless and that we scrub our bathrooms daily.  What we are saying, though, is that we like our products to be clean -- our lawn care products, our pet care products...all of our products in general!  To ensure that this happens, we have to be smart consumers, and smart consumers are informed consumers.  We recently came across an article about 11 common, yet sometimes deceiving words on food labels and thought that y’all might benefit from it.  So, here’s a quick run-down of some words that may imply one thing but have a completely different definition according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):



A food only has to be labelled as “imitation” if it has a lower amount of protein or some other essential nutrient than the food it’s trying to look like.  Wha-whaaaat?!

2. FREE:

If it’s free of fat, sugar, or salt, it doesn’t mean that not one trace of those things is to be found in it.  The FDA evaluates certain terms with reference to a typical portion size known as an RACC (reference amounts customarily consumed per eating occasion).  To be labeled “free” of calories, the food must have less than 5 per RACC.  For fat, sugar, and sodium, the amount differs but need not be “0” to be labelled “free.”  Also, the food must somehow be processed to be “Free” of those things in order to get the simple “free” label.  You can’t have “fat free lettuce,” only “lettuce, a fat free food.”  Do you feel ripped off yet?

3. LOW: 

Low is also defined with respect to set portion sizes and varies with whether it refers to calories, fat, or sodium. For fat it’s less than 3 grams. For calories, it’s less than 40, unless it’s a prepared meal, in which case it’s 120 per 100 grams. Saturated fat and cholesterol have specific “low” values as well.


Relational claims are evaluated with respect to a reference food.  A reference food should be the same type of food (ie -- chocolate ice cream compared to other chocolate ice cream) though the numbers against which the “reduced” claims are compared can be an average of the top three brands.  The “reduced” substance must be less than 25% of what is in the reference food.

5. LIGHT: 

Light (or lite, if a company doesn’t know how to spell) is also evaluated with respect to a reference food, and a raher complicated set of conditions is taken into account for different substances.  For example, if a “light” product has more than half of its calories from fat, the fat must be reduced by half per reference serving amount.  If less than half its calories come from fat, it can be “light” if the calories per serving are reduced by 1/3.  Sometimes food that meet “low” requirements can also be labelled as “light.”  “Lightly salted” should have 50% less sodium than a reference food.  

6. HIGH:

Our food labels also brag about high levels of the good stuff in addition to the low levels of the bad stuff.  “High” (or “rich in”) means that the food has 20% or more of the recommended daily value for that nutrient per reference serving.  


“Good source of” is a little lower than “high.”  A food with this label only needs to have 10-19% of the recommended daily value.  

8. MORE:  

Below “good source” is “more,” “fortified,” “enriched,” “added,” “extra,” or “plus.”  A food with 10% of the recommended daily value can use one of these, but it only applies for vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and potassium.  

9. LEAN: 

On me, when you’re not strong.  Nope, wrong thing.  To qualify as “healthy,” a product must meet the “low” standard for fat and saturated fat, another standard for sodium and cholesterol, and it must have at least 10% of the recommended daily value for a range of nutrients.


To qualify as “healthy,” a product must meet the “low” standard for fat and saturated fat, another standard for sodium and cholesterol, and it must have at least 10% of the recommended daily value for a range of nutrients.  


This one is big for us.  And by big, we mean shocking.  And by shocking, we mean YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS!!  After years of soliciting suggestions and considering comments on the question of what “natural” should mean, no useful consensus could be reached, and the FDA decided to forgo establishing an official definition.  Though it hasn’t issued rules for the use of “natural,” it endorses the general understanding that it implies nothing artificial or synthetic has been added that would not normally be expected to be added.  AHHH!!  

If you’re anything like us, your blood is very likely boiling and you’re vowing to eat only the fish you’ve farm-raised and the tomatoes you’ve container-grown on your balcony.  If, however, you’re slightly more realistic and are still making your grocery list for your local store, just please be aware of the above standards and eat as cleanly as possible, friends!    

Adapted from