Now that we follow a heart healthy diet, I’m drawn to food that has nutrient claims on the food packaging that say things like “low fat” or “low sodium”. How do you know that what they claim is really true? Well, you can check on the food labels, like I talk about in my How to Read and Understand Food Nutrition Labels post. You can also rest assured that these claims are regulated and strictly defined by the FDA.
The FDA regulates health claims and nutrient content claims on food and dietary supplement labels. Health claims have to do with a substance, like a food, food component or dietary ingredient, and also a disease or health related condition. Nutrient content claims have to do with the level of a nutrient in the product, like “low fat,” and with comparing the level of a nutrient in a food to another food, using a term like “reduced.”
Here are some of the nutrient claims used on food packaging:
(They follow the rule: If a food claims to be… = it means that one serving* contains…)
- Calorie free = Less than 5 calories
- Low calorie = 40 calories or less
- Reduced calories = At least 25% less calories than the regular product
- Sugar free = Less than 0.5 grams sugars and no ingredient that is a sugar
- Reduced sugar or less sugar = At least 25% less sugars than the regular product
- No added sugar = No sugar or sugar-containing ingredient added during processing or packaging
- Fat free = Less than 0.5 g fat and no ingredient that is fat
- Low fat = 3 g of fat or less (and not more than 30% of calories from fat for meals and main dishes)
- Reduced fat or less fat = At least 25% less fat than the regular product
- Low in saturated fat = 1 g or less of saturated fat, and 15% or less of the calories coming from saturated fat (10% or less for meals and main dishes)
- Lean = Less than 10 g of fat, 4.5 g of saturated fat and 95 mg of cholesterol
- Extra lean = Less than 5 g of fat, 2 g of saturated fat and 95 mg of cholesterol
- Light (lite) = At least 50% less fat than the regular product (or 1/3 fewer calories if less than 50% of calories are from fat)
- Cholesterol free = Less than 2 mg of cholesterol and no ingredient that contains cholesterol
- Low cholesterol = 20 mg of less of cholesterol
- Reduced cholesterol = At least 25% less cholesterol than the regular product
- Sodium free, salt free or no sodium = Less than 5 mg of sodium and no ingredient that is sodium chloride or contains sodium
- Very low sodium = 35 mg or less of sodium
- Low sodium = 140 mg or less of sodium
- Reduced or less sodium = At least 25% less sodium than the regular product
- Light or lite in sodium = At least 50% less sodium than the regular product
- Lightly salted = 50% less sodium than normally added
- No salt added or unsalted = No salt added during processing. If the food is not sodium free, the statement “not a sodium free food” or “not for control of sodium in the diet” must also appear on the label.
- High fiber or excellent source of fiber = 20% or more of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber
- Good source of fiber = 10-19% of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber
*Based on the labeled serving size and/or the reference amount customarily consumed (RACC)
I learned all of this from this handy chart on the American Heart Association website.
*This post includes some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Here are the same, or as close to the same as I could find, food products pictured above. They’re very easy to find on Amazon, and there’s several choices for each category. For example, when I typed in “sugar free drink mixes” several different kinds popped up, and I just chose to feature the one I would buy. The same thing applies to all the other categories.
So, as you can see, once you know what the nutrient claims on the food packaging mean and that they’re regulated by the FDA, you can now shop confidently for heart healthy products yourself. If you ever have any questions about any of this information, please let me know. I would love to help you live a heart healthy life.