Chunky Monkey

Rhesus Peanut Butter Cups

What an anorexic monkey sees when she looks in the mirror...

Good news for all the perpetual dieters out there! According to an article in the New York Times, Dieting Monkeys Offer Hope For Longer Life. Apparently a newly released study shows that a calorie restricted diet helped slow the aging process in monkeys. The study did not discuss whether these thin little monkeys were any happier or more successful than their fat friends, but suffice to say they were the most popular primates on the block (particularly after the others had died.)

But the big question is if this news will translate for humans, and if so, if humans would even want to live longer if forced to subsist on a lettuce leaf and sawdust each day for the rest of their endlessly miserable lives?

Still, say you want to jump the gun and get started on creating your own near starvation diet. The problem is, if you walk into a supermarket you’ll see myriad products passing themselves off as diet food. Are they for real? What do those nutritional labels really mean? Well, as women who have frequently found ourselves on the wrong end of a Snackwell box, we want to give you the lowdown on “low cal.”

You should be aware that the FDA has defined and strictly regulates the use of eleven core terms on nutritional labels so that manufacturers can’t deceive the public into believing the food they’re selling is healthier than it is. Similar to George Carlin’s list of “the seven words you can never say on television,” these eleven words are strictly regulated by the FDA: Lean, Extra lean, Light, Percent fat free, Low, Less, Reduced, Fewer, High, Good source, Fresh

The following definitions for these terms are taken from the FDA Web site, and can be found at www.fda.gov/fdac/special/foodlabel/lite.html.

Term

Definition

Lean

The food has less than 10 grams (g) of fat, less than 4 g of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per serving and per 100 g.

Extra Lean

The food has less than 5 g of fat, less than 2 g of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per serving and per 100 g.

Light or “Lite”

Can mean one of two things: The first, that these nutritionally altered products contain one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the reference food. If the food derives 50 percent or more of its calories from fat, the reduction must be 50 percent of the fat.

Second, that the sodium content of a low-calorie, low-fat food has been reduced by 50 percent. The term “light in sodium” is allowed if the food has at least 50 percent less sodium than a reference food. If the food still does not meet the definition for “low sodium,” the label must include the disclaimer “not a low-sodium food.”

Percent Fat Free

Products bearing “percent fat free” claims contain relatively small amounts of fat and must meet the definitions for low fat. The claim must also accurately reflect the amount of fat present in 100 g of the food. For example, if a food contains 2.5 g of fat per 50 g, the claim must be “95 percent fat free.”

Low

If a person can eat a large amount of the food without exceeding the “daily value” (www.fda.gov/fdac/special/foodlabel/dvs.html) for the nutrient, it’s considered “low.” “Low” claims can be made in reference to total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories. A claim of “very low” can be made only about sodium.

Less /
Reduced /
Fewer

A relative claim must include the percent difference and the identity of the regular product. However, “reduced,” “less,” and “light” claims can’t be made on products whose nutrient level in the regular food already meets the requirement for a “low” claim. Reference foods for “light” and “reduced” claims must be similar to the product bearing the claim—for example, reduced-fat potato chips compared with regular potato chips. But the reference foods for “less” and, in the case of calories, “fewer” may use dissimilar products within a product category—for example, pretzels with 25 percent less fat than potato chips.

High /
Good Source

To qualify for the “high” claim, the food must contain 20 percent or more of the daily value for that nutrient in a serving. Approved synonyms for high are “rich in” or “excellent source.” “Good source” means a serving contains 10 to 19 percent of the daily value for the nutrient.

Fresh

“Fresh” can be used only on a food that is raw, has never been frozen or heated, and contains no preservatives. (Irradiation at low levels is allowed.)

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