Thursday, March 17, 2011

Myth: Specific words on a food package help me make better food choices.

Answer: BUSTED!

Does the word “farmer” on a food label influence your decision to choose one food over another? Is a food marketed with “farmer” on the label an indication that the food is a healthy choice? Not necessarily. Consider two frozen lasagna options from the same company – one labeled as “farmers’ harvest” and one “lasagna.” Comparing the Nutrition Facts panels from each package you see that the “farmers’ harvest” lasagna has 360 calories, 12 grams of fat, 810 mg of sodium and 5 grams of fiber (it’s made with whole grain pasta). The other lasagna is similar when you look at the information on the Nutrition Facts panel: 350 calories, 11 grams of fat, 930 mg of sodium and 3 grams of fiber. It’s true that you get 2 more grams of fiber with the “farmers’ harvest” lasagna and 120 less mg of sodium but you also get a bit more calories and 1 additional gram of fat. So what’s a consumer to do?

Try to avoid being influenced by the marketing hype. Instead take the time to read the Nutrition Facts panel. When choosing frozen entrees, seek those that are about 300-500 calories with 10-18 grams of fat, 800 or less mg of sodium and 3 to 5 grams of fiber. These are not hard and fast rules, just guidelines. Remember that the frozen entrée you are choosing is only one of the many food choices you are making on any given day. If your allotted calories are 2000 calories for the day, 500 calories or more will leave you with only 1500 calories left for the day. And if you are seeking to get the 20-35 grams of fiber most of us need each day you will need to choose vegetables, fruits, beans and other whole grains for the rest of the day to get the fiber you need.
frozen meal
For quick and easy meal choices and other tips to help you choose frozen meals, visit the MissouriFamilies website at

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

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