Understanding Nutrition Labels

Understanding Nutrition Labels



Nutrition labeling is mandatory for most packaged food in the United States, and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The nutrition facts panel typically consists of the following components:

(1)     serving size information,

(2)     calorie information,

(3)     percent daily value (based on a 2000-calorie diet),

(4)     nutrient information, and

(5)     a footnote of recommended daily values for standard 2000- and 2500-calorie diets.


Sounds pretty straight forward doesn’t it. Unfortunately it isn’t. If you’re confused by what’s listed in food labels, especially the more complicated ones, you’re not alone.[1],[2]


Studies have shown that with some help in deciphering them the Nutrition Facts label can be an effective educational tool to increase nutrition knowledge.[3]


In fact I’ve found that most people don’t understand enough about what’s on food labels to make an informed choice of what’s best for them.


The reason is two fold. First of all most people don’t fully understand the lingo used on the labels, and secondly label information pertaining to newer “low-carb” products are not well regulated by the FDA and are more challenging to understand.


Most people think they understand most of what’s important on the food/nutrition labels - for example the number of calories and maybe even the amount of carbs, and fat and protein in the food or supplement. But they’re wrong because it’s just not that easy to understand and use without some guidance.


The ability to read and evaluate food labels is not just a matter of choosing to eat healthy. To those of us trying to gain muscle mass and improve body composition choosing the right mix of foods can be critical to our success. And for people trying to manage chronic disease like heart ailment or diabetes, label reading can at times even be a life saving matter.



An Overview of What to Look For


Knowing what to look for is the first step in understanding nutrition facts labels. The Nutrition Facts Label gives a lot of information but the key is to know how to use this information to help you make the food choices that are right for you.


If you look on the FDA site at you’ll find information on how to understand and use the nutrition facts label. The illustration I’m using below is a sample label for macaroni and cheese from The FDA added the colors to the label for illustration purposes.




As you can see the label is meant to give you specific information on what’s in each food product, information that you can use for healthy eating and achieving your goals. The nutrients on a label are ordered from what we should limit, such as fat, cholesterol, and sodium, to those nutrients we need to make sure we get enough of, such as dietary fiber, vitamin A & C, calcium and iron. However, as we’ll see, while this information is useful it does have limitations.


From Top to Bottom - What’s On the Label


First of all we’ll cover the information you’ll find on the food label. After that we’ll look into how to read into what’s not on the label.



Serving Size


When you’re looking at the Nutrition Facts label on the food product begin your reading at the top of the label with the food’s recommended serving size and number of servings per package.


Be sure to compare the serving size to how much you eat. For example, serving size may be 1 cup and you may eat two cups. In that case you’re eating double the serving size so you need to double the calories and other nutrient numbers, including the percent daily value.





Continue down the label to total calories and calories from fat. Total calories, which includes the calories from fat – and from carbohydrates and proteins,is the amount of calories per recommended serving.


Calories from fatis the total calories in one serving that come from fat. The reason that total calories from fat is listed, and not total calories from carbohydrates and proteins, is because of the emphasis in the last few decades about the health effects of lowering fat in the diet.


Putting this information on the label allows people to easily monitor the amount of fat in their diets, with the general recommendation being that no more than 30% of daily calories come from fat. This translates to no more than 600 calories of an allowable 2000 calories should come from fat.


Knowing the total calories from a portion of food allows you to compare the amount of calories in how much you will eat of the food to the total calories you need for a day. If you are trying to manage your weight, choosing foods that are lower in calories will help. Even small differences in calories per serving can add up over the course of a day.


Keep in mind when reading the rest of the label that:


·         1 gram of fat contains about 9 calories

·         1 gram of protein contains about 4 calories.

·         1 gram of carbohydrate contains about 4 calories.


Using some simple calculations you can figure out how much of the difference between total calories and calories from fat comes from carbohydrates and proteins. You can also simply figure out the number of calories that comes from carbohydrates and from protein by multiplying the grams of each by 4.



Percent Daily Values


The Percent Daily Value, listed in the right hand column in percentages, is the percentage of each nutrient recommended to meet the needs of the average person each day in a 2000-calorie diet. This and is measured in grams and milligrams depending on the nutrient.


It basically tells you if the nutrients in a serving of food contribute a lot or a little to the recommended daily intake. The goal is to eat 100% of each of those nutrients every day. For example, if a serving of a food is listed as 25% of the daily value of protein, then that food provides 25% of your daily protein needs based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories.


Percent daily value is a useful measure of whether a food is high or low in specific nutrients. A food is considered a good source of a nutrient if the percentage is between 10% and 19%. If a food has 5% or less it’s considered to be low and if it has more than 20% of the percent daily value, it’s considered to be high in that nutrient.



Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium


Next down the line in food labels is information on nutrients that most people should limit, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium.


Total Fat


This is the total amount of fat in a serving. While it’s recommended that total fat be low, today the consensus is that between 20 and 30% of our daily calorie intake should come from fats. However, this consensus is for ordinary people and not those who follow my phase shift diets and transform their bodies from being dependant on carbs to being dependant on fats, including body fat, as their primary fuel.


Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, and Cholesterol


Saturated fat and trans fat are considered bad fats because of their ability to raise cholesterol levels (as can dietary cholesterol) and increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat, which is found in greater amounts in butter, cheese, whole milk, whole milk products, meat and poultry, has in fact not shown to raise the incidence of heart disease. For more info on saturated fat and red meat see the articles Red Meat Controversyand The Effect of Dietary Fat on Testosterone.


Trans fats are used by food processors to increase the shelf life of processed food. Foods high in trans-fat include stick margarine, vegetable shortening, cookies, crackers, snack foods, fried foods and other processed foods. Since consumer awareness about trans fats has recently increased many food manufacturers are trying to decrease or eliminate trans fats from their products.


As of January 2006 food manufacturers in the US must list trans fat on all their products (see If the product comes from outside the US and the amount of trans-fat is not listed, look in the ingredients list for words such as ' partially hydrogenated oils.' This indicates trans-fats are probably in the product.


Some dietary supplements, for example high protein/sports/energy/nutrition bars, and meal replacements, may contain trans fat from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil as well as saturated fat and cholesterol. Because of this the FDA requires trans fat levels be on the label if a dietary supplement contains 0.5 gram or more trans fat per serving.


Cholesterol, while necessary for the endogenous production of many substances in the body including vitamin D and some hormones, can become a problem if it’s too high.


Unsaturated Fats


In most cases, since it’s not required by the FDA, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, are not listed on the label. If they’re not listed then you can get an estimate of how much total unsaturated fats (although not individual amounts) is in the food by subtracting the trans and saturated fats from the total fat.




Sodium, mainly from salt naturally present in food or added, more commonly added to food, can contribute to fluid retention and high blood pressure and thus should be limited. Knowing how much sodium is in food can be especially useful for bodybuilders looking to limit their sodium intake during contest preparation, or alternately to sodium load.



Information on Carbohydrates and Protein


Information on the other two macronutrients is also found on the labels.




Carbohydrates are broken down into total carbohydrates (carbs), fiber, and sugars.


Total Carbohydrate


This is the amount of total carbohydrate per serving measured in grams. Carbohydrates are primarily found in starches, vegetables, fruits, sweets and milk. Carbohydrate counting is used in diabetes meal planning.


Total carbohydrates combines all the carbs in a food including fiber, sugars, starches, sugar alcohols and glycerin.


Dietary Fiber


This is the amount of indigestible (insoluble fiber) or partially digestible (soluble fiber) bulk from plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oats, nuts and seeds and is measured in grams. Foods high in fiber are shown to be beneficial for weight control, diabetes, high cholesterol and some forms of cancer. Foods with five grams of fiber or more are considered “high fiber” foods.




These are part of the Total Carbohydrate content and are measured in grams. These contain sugars from natural, normally present in the food, and added sugars. You can see which sugars have been added by looking at the ingredients list – for example, glucose, fructose, sugar, dextrose, maltose, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, turbinado, maple syrup, molasses, barley, and malt. Other ingredients are treated like sugar and should be counted as carbohydrates by those on low carb diets. These include sugar alcohols, such as maltitol, xylitol, and sorbitol, and glycerin.


These added sugars, along with trans fats, should be avoided by anyone trying to improve body composition, health and performance. Although there has been a case made for the use of sugars post exercise, I believe that the use of simple sugars is counter productive at any time.


Keep Carbs In Context


If you’re counting carbs you need to consider most of the total carbs in a product to arrive at the number you can use in your carb counting. There are a number of issues to consider especially since many manufacturers use various tricks to significantly understate their productscarbohydrate content. For more information see the section below on Disguised Carbohydrates.





This listing, measured in grams, tells you how much total protein is in a single serving of a food. While there are differences in the biological value and effects of various protein sources, there is no distinction made for the type of protein or the source. Also amino acids and peptides (including glutamine peptides from hydrolyzed wheat gluten) are not included as they’re not considered whole food proteins. In my view this is a serious mistake as amino acids and peptides are the breakdown products of whole protein and as such should be considered in the total protein count.



Vitamins and Minerals


The only two vitamins on the food label are vitamins A and C, presumably because of their historical importance to health. Both are measured in percentages since the idea is to take in 100% of each of these nutrients daily in order to prevent deficiency diseases.


Calcium and Iron are the only minerals required on labels. As in the two vitamins they are measured in percent daily values.



Ingredient List


The ingredient list is another part of the Nutrition Label and gives you an overview of everything that’s in the product. The ingredients are listed according to how much of the ingredient the food contains. Not only are the macronutrient ingredients listed but other ingredients such as spices, preservatives, artificial coloring and flavors are also listed on the ingredient list.


The ingredient list can help you determine whether the food is right for you, depending on your views on what you want and don’t want to put in your body.



Label Information for Avoiding Allergies


The FDA, as of January, 2006, requires food manufacturers to list common food allergens on food labels in simple terms that adults and older children can understand. Common allergens, such as milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts, although listed in the ingredients list, it must also be clearly state on food labels (after or adjacent to the list of ingredients) whether the products contain these allergens.



Beyond the Nutrition Facts Panel


Labeling Terms & Their Meanings


Besides understanding the food label, consumers, especially those on special diets, also need to be aware of nutrition claims posted on foods. Some food labels make claims that they’re low in cholesterol or low in fat. But these claims have very specific meanings that most of us aren’t aware of.


However, although these claims can only be used if a food meets strict government definitions, you have to be careful you don’t misunderstand them. For example, the standard for "reduced or less" is always at least 25 percent lower than the reference or original food.


Although a label may say that the food is reduced fat or reduced sodium that only means that the amount of fat or sodium has been reduced by 25% from the original product. So if the original product was high in fat or sodium the reduced product will be a notch lower but will likely still be relatively high.


Even if a food is low in fat, the food may not necessarily be nutritious. Even a low-fat food can be high in sugar. Food companies also may make claims such as "no cholesterol" (meaning there is no animal fat used in making the product), but that does not necessarily mean the product is low in fat.


Here are some of the meanings according to government mandated definitions:


Sugar Free

Means that it has less than 0.5g per serving.


Reduced Sugar

Indicates that the product has at least 25% less sugar per serving.


No Sugar Added

Products are those that have had no sugar added during processing or packing. They do include products that already contain natural sugar such as dried fruit and juice.


Calorie Free

Means that the product is fewer than 5 calories per serving.


Low Calorie

Is an item that contains 40 calories or less per serving.


Fat Free

Is less than 0.5g of fat per serving.


Saturated Fat Free

Tells you that the product con-tains less than 0.5g per serving and the level of trans fatty acids is no more than 1% of the total fat.


Low Fat

Is 3g or less of fat per serving and if the serving is 30g or less or 2 tablespoons or less, per 50g of the product.


Low Saturated Fat

Informs the consumer that 1g or less per serving and not more than 15 percent of the total calories are from saturated fat.


Reduced Or Less Fat

Can be used on the label if at least 25 percent less per serving than the original reference food.


Reduced Or Less Saturated Fat

Is at least 25 percent less per serving.



Means that the product has 50% less fat than the same regular product.

Can also be used to mean one third fewer calories or 50% less sodium.




Extra Lean

Means less than 10 grams of fat, 4 grams saturated fat and 95 mg of cholesterol.

Means less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams saturated fat and 95 mg of cholesterol


Cholesterol Free

Is any product that contains less than 2 mg of cholesterol and 2g or less saturated fat.


Low Cholesterol

Refers to an item that is 20mg or less and 2g or less of saturated fat per serving; and if the serving is 30g or less or 2 tablespoons or less, per 50g of the product.


Reduced Or Less Cholesterol

Indicates a prod-uct has at least 25 percent less and 2g or less of satu-rated fat per serving.


Sodium Free

Is less than 5mg per serving.


Low Sodium

Means the product is 140mg or less per serving.


Very Low Sodium

Is an item with 35mg or less per serving.


Reduced Or Less Sodium

Requires that the prod-uct be at least 25 percent less per serving.


High Fiber

Is any product that contains 5 or more grams per serving. High fiber claims must also meet the criteria for low fat or the level of total fat must be shown next to the high fiber claim.


Good Source Of Fiber

Refers to products with 2.5 to 4.9g per serving.


More Added Fiber

Products must contain at least 2.5g more per serving than the original reference food.



The Food Label and Special Interests


Most of what we’ve gone through so far will help you to decide on what’s in the food you’re eating and allow you to make healthy choices about food. The nutrients on a label are ordered from what we should limit, such as fat, cholesterol, and sodium, to those nutrients we need to make sure we get enough of, such as dietary fiber, vitamin A & C, calcium and iron.


However, since the information on food labels is geared mostly to the average person on an average diet, how you use the nutrition facts panel depends on the type of diet you’re on and your goals.


If you’re looking to maximize body composition and/or performance, or if you’re following a specific diet, then you’re going to look and use the information that’s on the food panel a little differently than Mr. Average. For our needs it would be useful to have more information on what’s in the food or nutritional supplement than is now on most labels.


So while it’s always a good idea to minimize trans fats and sugars, the amount of other fats, proteins and carbs can vary dramatically depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.


For example if you’re following a low carb diet then your total fat level will usually be high, unless you’re drastically cutting back on calories. And if red meat is an important part of your diet, then your saturated fat intake will be relatively high. But that may not be a problem because when you’re low carbing saturated fat is treated differently than when you’re on a high carb diet, especially one high in sugars.


Regardless of the type of diet you’re on you should minimize your intake of sugars and trans fat, and increase your intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Unfortunately neither of the unsaturated fats is required to be listed on the food label although some companies do.


It would also be useful to have the number of calories from each macronutrient and subsections under that macronutrient. This would allow you to more accurately tailor the food for specific macronutrient requirements. For example, it would be useful to know how much of the fiber was soluble and how much was insoluble fiber. That’s because while insoluble fiber has no useable calories, soluble fiber does.


Breaking down the macronutrients into subsections also allows you to see through some of the marketing ploys used by some manufacturers to give a false impression of what’s in their products. No where is this more needed than when discussing the carbohydrate content of food and supplements, especially low carbohydrate protein snacks, bars, and meal replacements. We’ll cover this subject below under Disguised Carbohydrates.


The following chart is an example of what a more detailed food label should contain, as against what it now contains.


Caffeine Content of Food and Drink


Another relatively unregulated area is the caffeine content of various drinks, mostly coffee and tea, carbonated beverages and energy drinks, and foods, mostly chocolate, especially dark chocolate, and coffee flavored yogurt and syrup. When caffeine is added to foods and beverage it must appear in the list of ingredients on the label. However, manufacturers aren't required to list the amount of caffeine.


Only a minority of companies voluntarily state the amount of caffeine in their product on their labels. The American Beverage Association issued Guidelines on the Voluntary Quantitative Labeling of Caffeine a few years ago. For more info go to For a discussion of caffeine in energy drinks go to


This is a problem with carbonated beverages[4] and especially the new crop of energy drinks, with the energy coming almost 100% from the caffeine (and related compounds) content even though it may have several other ingredients in the mix such as taurine, B vitamins, sugar, etc.


An average cup of brewed coffee has around 100 mg of caffeine. However, the caffeine content of coffee from retail outlets, including different sources of the same brands, can vary appreciably, mostly from 70 to 140 mg.[5],[6] And even decaffeinated coffee contains significant amounts of caffeine.[7]


For a list of the levels of caffeine in foods, drinks, OTC pills and medicications go to As you can see from these lists the amount of caffeine in various beverages varies dramatically from those with a caffeine content of several cups of brewed coffee to relatively low levels.


Up to 400 mg of caffeine per day is considered safe for healthy adults,[8] although an upper limit of 300 mg is recommended for some, such as women in their child bearing years.[9] While these limits may seem to be high, if one looks at all the sources of caffeine, reaching unhealthy levels is easier than most people think.


For example, some of the energy drinks, in their bid to outdo each other, have raised caffeine levels in their products to the point where their use alone could be dangerous to health.[10] For example a 20 oz bottle of Fixx (enough for one training session), and energy drink aimed for those that exercise, contains 500 mg of caffeine. And an 8 oz container of Spike Shooter contains 300 mg of caffeine and it wouldn’t be unusual to consume more than one a day.


Disguised Carbohydrates

There are times when a carb is not a carb, and when something which isn't technically considered a carb is in fact a carb. The confusion mainly stems from the food and supplement industry.


The Food Label terms for carbohydrates as defined by the FDA can be confusing however some of the definitions are straightforward, such as.

  1. Total carbohydrate: calculated by subtraction of the sum of the crude protein, total fat, moisture, and ash from the total weight of the food. "   Sugars: the sum of all free mono- and disaccharides (such as glucose, fructose, lactose, and sucrose)."
  2. Sugar alcohol: “the sum of saccharide derivatives in which a hydroxyl group replaces a ketone or aldehyde group whose use in the food is listed by FDA (mannitol, xylitol) or is generally recognized as safe (sorbitol)."
  3. Other carbohydrates: “the difference between total carbohydrate and the sum of dietary fiber, sugars, and sugar alcohols if present.[11] (reference for above 3 points) "
  4. Glycerol, glycerin, and glycerine refer to the same substance. FDA nutrition labeling regulations require that when glycerin is used as a food ingredient, it must be included in the grams of total carbohydrate per serving declaration. Also, when the label of a food containing glycerin has a statement regarding sugars, the glycerin content per serving must also be declared as sugar alcohol.[12]

As straightforward as these definitions are the manufacturers have succeeded in muddying the waters by introducing some new phrases to describe the carbohydrate content of their products.


The relatively new phrases "net carb," "low carb," and "impact carb" are not FDA definitions but rather created by companies so that you'll see their product on the shelves and be attracted enough by what they're saying that you'll buy the product.


To calculate the "net carb," companies subtract the grams of fiber, sugar alcohols, and glycerin from the total carbohydrates. The reason behind this, at least as far as these companies are concerned, is that the body does not digest fiber so it shouldn't be counted as part of the total carbohydrates, and that glycerin and sugar alcohols don’t increase insulin or blood glucose levels like sugars and starches do.


However, the idea behind low carb diets for those interested in body composition is to maximize the use of body fat as a primary fuel and anything that interferes with that in a facile way (dietary fat and protein don’t) should be suspect. The sugar alcohols, glycerin and even soluble fiber do just that and as such should be counted in as carbs.


While I'm sure that taking the strict definition of carbs suits the food industry and increases sales, they're deceiving the public as far as the usefulness of their products for those on low carb diets.


The only exception when considering the sugar alcohols or polyols may be erythritol, but I'm not so sure about the validity of the claims since the studies were funded by those with vested interests in promoting erythritol. However, it seems that erythritol is mostly absorbed in the small intestine and of the amount absorbed, most is excreted unchanged in the urine. Also colonic bacteria seem not to be able to metabolize erythritol. so that secondary metabolites (see fiber below) such as short chain triglycerides are not produced. At this point, however, given that more research needs to be done on the long term use of significant amounts of erythritol, I would count 1 gram of erythritol as being equivalent to 0.2 grams of carbs - so that 5 grams of erythritol should be counted as 1 gram of carbs.




The effects of fiber merits a special mention. Insoluble fiber, even though technically a carb, is not absorbed and is excreted unchanged. As such, it doesn't provide any calories or impact on your systemic macronutrient mix. So insoluble fiber shouldn't be counted in either the carb or calorie columns.


Soluble fiber is another story and is somewhat of a gray area in the carb/calorie equation. Pectin, for example, undergoes vigorous "friendly" bacterial fermentation in the cecum and produces high levels of short-chain fatty acids. These short chain triglycerides are used up by cells in the colon and also absorbed systemically. Thus about half of soluble fiber should be counted as carbs even though the calories come from short chain fatty acids.


But it's not just the calories. The problem with the short chain and even the medium chain triglycerides (see below) is that they're used by the body preferentially over the long chain triglycerides (which make up body fat) so that like carbs they can short change your metabolism away from burning the fatty acids that make up body fat. Thus if you're looking to maximize body composition the use of short and medium chain fatty acids can be counterproductive.


I know that medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), are often used by athletes to enhance body composition, however, they can be counterproductive in low carb phase of my phase shift diets. MCTs, while having a protein sparing effect when on a high calorie diet high in complex carbohydrates, is counter productive when on a higher fat, low carbohydrate diet.


The body, instead of using the long chain fatty acids that make up most of body fat, uses the MCTs - bypassing the metabolic processes that are set up to allow the body to burn its own fat and thus decreasing both the lipolytic effect of the diet and the transfer of fatty acids into the mitochondria where it undergoes beta oxidation and is preferentially (and this is the important word for becoming fat adapted instead of being carb adapted) used as fuel for the body.


The long chain triglycerides found in most foods allowed in my Anabolic, Metabolic, Anabolic Solutions, and Radical Diets, and which make up our body fat, have other advantages over MCTs. First of all the LCTs have greater protein sparing effects than MCTs.[13] MCTs, unlike LCTs, have little inhibitory effect on the activity of enzymes involved in lipogenesis (increased formation of body fat).[14],[15] As well, several studies have shown that LCTs increase lipolysis or the breakdown of body fat.[16] Overall LCTs in contrast to MCTs, should result in decreased body fat levels, if used properly.



Hard to Digest Carbs


There are several carbs that are difficult for humans to digest and as such are not considered as carbs by manufacturers. For example inulin and oligofructose, storage carbs that are found in some plants, have just under 1/3 the effect of regular carbs on metabolism and as such can be taken into account at that level - for example 3 grams of inulin would be equivalent to one gram of carbs. The reason for this is that inulin and oligofructose have a ß(2 1) bonds linking the fructose molecules. These bonds render them nondigestible by human intestinal enzymes.


Thus, inulin and oligofructose pass through the mouth, stomach and small intestine without being metabolized. As such, almost all of the inulin or oligofructose ingested enters the colon where it is totally fermented by the colonic microflora. The energy derived from fermentation is largely a result of the production of mostly short-chain fatty acids and some lactate, which are metabolized and contribute 1.5 kcal/g of useful energy for both oligofructose and inulin.


However, because most of these products are likely mostly absorbed into the portal vein and therefore enter the body proper, and because I consider lactate and short chain fatty acids as equivalent to carbs, this 1.5 calories per gram, out of a possible 4 calories per gram, has to be factored into your carb intake.




The bottom line is that several macronutrients and ingredients, including soluble fiber, sugar alcohols, carbs that are difficult to digest (such as the inulin and oligofructose, storage carbs that are hard to digest), alcohol, lactate, pyruvate and glycerol act like carbs and if they're not taken into consideration as being the equivalent to either full or partial carbs will sabotage the effects of low carb diets on weight and fat loss, and body composition.


Sample Food Lists


Saturated Fats Are Found In:


·                     Whole Milk


·                     Butter


·                     Cheese


·                     Ice Cream


·                     Red Meat


·                     Chocolate


·                     Coconuts


·                     Coconut Milk


·                     Coconut Oil


Monounsaturated Fats Include:


·                     Olives


·                     Olive Oil


·                     Canola Oil


·                     Peanut Oil


·                     Cashews


·                     Almonds


·                     Peanuts


·                     Avocados


·                     Most other nuts...


Polyunsaturated Fats Include:


·                     Corn


·                     Soybean


·                     Safflower


·                     Cottonseen Oils


·                     Fish


Trans Fats Are Found In:


·                     Margarines


·                     Vegetable shortening


·                     Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil


·                     Deep-fried chips


·                     Many fast foods


·                     Most commercial baked goods


Find the Right Fat


Aside from staying away from trans fats, try to get as much good fat as possible. The best fats are mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated that are found in many foods including:


·                     Vegetable Oils

·                     Nuts

·                     Fatty Fish

·                     Avocados

·                     Olives.


However, don’t shy away from saturated fats even though you should include foods with the highest level of monounsaturated fat like olive and canola oil.


Butter or Margarine?


It’s really a tossup. Butter has more saturated fat, which for people on my phase shift diets isn’t a problem. As well, I personally prefer butter because I find it tastes better than margarine. On the other hand some prefer margarine because it's easy to spread just moments after removing it from the refrigerator and they like the taste. If you go for the margarine, make sure it has zero or very close to zero trans fats.




Cowburn G, Stockley L. Consumer understanding and use of nutrition labelling: a systematic review. Public Health Nutr. 2005 Feb;8(1):21-8.

[2] Rothman RL, Housam R, Weiss H, Davis D, Gregory R, Gebretsadik T, Shintani A, Elasy TA. Patient understanding of food labels: the role of literacy and numeracy. Am J Prev Med. 2006 Nov;31(5):391-8.

[3] Hawthorne KM, Moreland K, Griffin IJ, Abrams SA. An educational program enhances food label understanding of young adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006 Jun;106(6):913-6.

[4] Chou KH, Bell LN. Caffeine content of prepackaged national-brand and private-label carbonated beverages. J Food Sci. 2007 Aug;72(6):C337-42.

[5]McCusker RR, Goldberger BA, Cone EJ. Caffeine content of specialty coffees. J. Anal. Toxicol.2003; 27:520–522.

[6] Desbrow B, Hughes R, Leveritt M, Scheelings P. An examination of consumer exposure to caffeine from retail coffee outlets. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Sep;45(9):1588-92. Epub 2007 Feb 23.

[7]McCusker RR, Fuehrlein B, Goldberger BA, Gold MS, Cone EJ. Caffeine content of decaffeinated coffee. J Anal Toxicol. 2006 Oct;30(8):611-3.

[8] Nawrot P, Jordan S, Eastwood J, Rotstein J, Hugenholtz A, Feeley M. Effects of caffeine on human health. Food Addit Contam. 2003 Jan;20(1):1-30.

[9] Higdon JV, Frei B. Coffee and health: a review of recent human research. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(2):101-23.

[10] Cohen DL, Townsend RR. Does consumption of high-caffeine energy drinks affect blood pressure? J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2006 Oct;8(10):744-5.

[11] Altman TA. In: FDA and USDA Nutrition Labeling Guide 9, Technomic Publishing Company, Inc, Lancaster, PA (1998), pp. 15-16.

[12] Institute of Food Technologists. Food Laws and Regulations Division, Newsletter Vol. 9, No. 1, Winter/Spring 1999 (2003). Available at:

[13] Beaufrere B. Chassard D. Broussolle C. Riou JP. Beylot M. Effects of D-beta-hydroxybutyrate and long- and medium-chain triglycerides on leucine metabolism in humans. American Journal of Physiology 1992; 262(3 Pt 1):E268-74.

[14] Chanez M. Bois-Joyeux B. Arnaud MJ. Peret J. Long-term consumption of a diet with moderate medium chain triglyceride content does not inhibit the activity of enzymes involved in hepatic lipogenesis in the rat. [French] Comptes Rendus de l Academie des Sciences - Serie Iii, Sciences de la Vie. 307(12):685-8, 1988.

[15] Hwang SG. Yano H. Kawashima R. Institution Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Japan. Influence of dietary medium- and long-chain triglycerides on fat deposition and lipogenic enzyme activities in rats. Journal of the American College of Nutrition1993; 12(6):643-50.

[16] Kather H. Wieland E. Scheurer A. Vogel G. Wildenberg U. Joost C. Influences of variation in total energy intake and dietary composition on regulation of fat cell lipolysis in ideal-weight subjects. Journal of Clinical Investigation 1987; 80(2):566-72.

TRUSTe Certified Privacy Seal
Credit Card Processing