Thursday, February 27, 2014

Myth: Some of the information on food packages isn’t very clear.


But, help is on the way. Like you, about 42% of adults look at the label while shopping, according to a USDA study. Unveiled today were proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts panel you see on food packages. If these changes are made, the information on your food label would get a reality check. How so?

  • Serving sizes would be more realistic. A bottle of 20-ounce soda would be considered as one serving instead of two. No more having to do the math to get the total calories in a bottle. That pint of ice cream? 4 servings? Really? No, in the real world we serve ourselves one cup so a pint would be two servings.
  • Added (refined) sugars would be new information provided on the label because Americans consume too much sugar and there is much evidence linking high sugar in the diet to heart disease.
  • There will be no hiding from the calorie information on the label. The number of calories will be bigger and bolder. Calories from fat would no longer be on the label next to the total calories.
  • Vitamins and minerals that appear on the label will change. Vitamins A and C will be dropped. Vitamin D and potassium will be added. Americans aren’t getting enough vitamin D for good bone health. Potassium is also an important part of our diets as it may help to lower blood pressure. Calcium and iron will remain on the label.
  • In addition to the proposed new format with the changes above, an alternative label format is provided. The amount of various nutrients is presented differently in sections. There’s a ‘Quick Facts’ section that includes fats, carbohydrates and protein, an ‘Avoid too much’ section for saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and a ‘Get enough’ section with fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium.

The public is asked to provide comments for the next 90 days. For more information, go to There is a button at the top of the page for the Spanish version of this announcement.

Current, Proposed & Alternate nutrition labels
Click image to see larger version
Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Myth: Superfruits are the best fruit choices for my family.

Answer: BUSTED!

Bananas, grapes and pomegranate
All fruits are beneficial, not just superfruits

Superfruit – sounds like a fruit that is SUPER good for your health and maybe even has some superpowers. You might have first heard of superfruits when watching TV where they are touted on informational TV shows or advertised in commercials. Or maybe you read about the superfruit of the moment when a new study was released.

Introduced in 2005, superfruit is a marketing term, not a scientific one. Over time the superfruit of the moment has changed from pomegranates to acai berries to goji berries. Generally, superfruits get their name because of their antioxidants. Antioxidants may prevent or delay cell damage. This cell damage is thought to occur in some chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Superfruits are marketed as exotic and they aren’t widely available. This means they will cost you more money than other fruits in your grocery store. The bottom line is that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is an important part of good health. They contain antioxidants that fight disease and also contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. Another reason to choose fruits and vegetables? They are low in calories.

Read more about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables at

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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Myth: There aren’t any ‘healthy’ gift options for Valentine’s Day.

Answer: BUSTED!

Utensils and hearts on cutting board and table
Cook a healthy meal for your valentine!
It may seem like the only way to show you care on Valentine’s Day is to give candy, but what better way to show some love than to give the gift of good health? Here are alternative gift ideas for this Valentine’s Day.

  • Buy (or make at home) chocolate covered strawberries. Use dark chocolate with 60% cocoa or more. Why? Strawberries and dark chocolate contain flavanols. These substances have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which may help ward off diseases like heart disease and cancer.
  • Still want to include chocolate in your Valentine’s Day treat? Set a relaxed mood and make a mug of hot cocoa for your sweetie. Use cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing. This kind of cocoa also has flavanols for good health. Use skim or low-fat milk in the cocoa for a healthier and lower-fat treat.
  • You know that fruits are healthy – high in fiber and nutrients, low in calories and sodium. How about giving an edible fruit arrangement instead of a bouquet of flowers? You can also make your own arrangement especially if your sweetie has a favorite fruit. Just search online using the term ‘edible fruit arrangement’ to find some good online sources for this DIY Valentine’s Day gift.
  • Nothing says love more than making a meal for someone else. How about making a relaxing healthy dinner? Or prepare the meal together to make it more special. Try a stir-fry dish or sauté some salmon and greens. Time together is the best gift you can give to someone to show you care.
  • Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of winter. It’s hard to think about gift ideas that involve being active together for good health. Give the gift of fun and get a pass for a local gym. Take a relaxing walk or a class together.

So there you have it. There really ARE alternative ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day that include the gift of good health. Enjoy!

Read more about the benefits of dark chocolate at

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

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Myth: If a food has the word ‘simple’ in the name, it’s a healthy food choice.

Answer: BUSTED!

If you’ve been following food labeling as I have been, you have probably noticed how many manufacturers use the word ‘natural’ on packaging to attract consumers to their products. Natural sells. Consumers assume a food labeled ‘natural’ is healthy. The problem? What does natural mean? The Food and Drug Administration’s take on natural is this: It’s OK for manufacturers to use the term if the food doesn’t have "added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances." The United States Department of Agriculture says that meat and poultry can be labeled ‘natural’ if they are minimally processed and have no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

As you might expect, some lawsuits have arisen from the use of the vague term ‘natural’ on foods. The result? Some companies are not using this on foods anymore. Some have replaced ‘natural’ with the words ‘simple’ or ‘simply.’ What does it mean? There’s no standard definition as with ‘natural.’ But you can be sure that the word likely resonates well with consumers who see it on the label and think the product is a healthy food choice. It might be. Or it might not be.

Nutrition Facts label
Check the Nutrition Facts label & ingredients list
How can you tell whether or not the item is actually healthy? The Nutrition Facts label will tell you the amount of calories, fat, sodium, sugar and fiber that is in the product. And skim the ingredient list to see where certain ingredients land on the list (the higher up the list, the more there is in the product). In the case of sugar, you might see several types of sugar or sweetener on the list meaning that the product has more sugar than you think.


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