READ YOUR LABELS!

Original information provided by
Keith Van Gasken

Popcorn night! I recently bought an air popper. At least once a week, we fire it up for some healthy magic. My preferred seasoning is a little onion powder and nutritional yeast. To make my spices stick to the popcorn, I spray it first with some low sodium tamari (soy sauce). Roger used to grab the fake spray butter bottle kept in the fridge. This was truly the last fake and processed food item I’ve kept in the house, but Roger also knew its’ days were numbered!

The bright yellow “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” label says it has zero calories and that’s why we began to buy it instead of dairy butter many years ago. But, how can that be if it contains oil? As you know, oil has 120 calories per tablespoon.

So, here’s how they can label this product as ‘zero calories’:

First, the serving size is five sprays = 0 calories. So far, so good. Then I look at the ingredients. First ingredient: Water. Second ingredient: liquid soybean oil. Soybean oil? How does oil become zero calories? When it’s diluted with water, they want you to believe it’s also calorie-free.

After some research on the internet, I find that according to U.S. Government regulations, any food with less than 5 calories per serving can be rounded down to zero calories on the Nutrition Facts label. So, any product that has 3 to 4 calories per serving can also be listed as zero. So, I guess that means in product labeling terms, 4 calories = 0 calories.

Now that you know that, let’s look at two “zero calorie” labeled products:

Buttery Sprays
I went to the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter®” website and found some interesting information:

One pump of the cap has no calories or fat.

Five pumps have about 4 calories.

One teaspoon, or 25 pumps, has about 20 calories.

After doing the math, we figured out the entire bottle contains about 900 calories. (About the same as 2 cups of whole fat ice cream.)

So, if you have been spraying your vegetables with 10 sprays, be aware that you’re adding 8 calories, which may not be a big deal. However, if you’re unscrewing the lid and pouring about a tablespoon on your potato or anything else, you’ve just added 60 calories. If this is your ritual several times a week, just know that you may be consuming about 1,000 more calories each month from these “zero-calorie” products without even knowing it.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Original Spray

INGREDIENTS: WATER, SOYBEAN OIL*, SALT, SWEET CREAM BUTTERMILK**, XANTHAN GUM, SOY LECITHIN, POLYSORBATE 60, LACTIC ACID, (POTASSIUM SORBATE, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA) USED TO PROTECT QUALITY, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, BETA CAROTENE (COLOR).
* ADDS A DIETARILY INSIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF FAT
**ADDS A DIETARILY INSIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF CHOLESTEROL

Nonstick Cooking Sprays
The first ingredient in a can of Pam® cooking spray is canola oil. Remember, that’s 120 calories per tablespoon. Spraying for one-third of a second has zero calories. The same as with the butter spray, the manufacturer labels their serving amount just below the 5-calorie threshold.

For those who don’t use a stopwatch when spraying your pans, if you spray for one full second, you would be adding approximately 7 calories. If you want to stir fry some vegetables and use a 5-second spray, you’ve added about 35 calories. If you are making oven fries and spray for 10 seconds, you’ve added 70 calories. So, when you’ve used the entire can, you’ve added thousands of nutrition-void, processed food fat calories back into your body.

So are these ‘bad’ foods? You can decide. You may use these products as a tool for weight management. I’ve stopped using the butter sprays, and will occasionally use an organic oil spray. Whatever you decide to do, this message is intended to make you FULLY aware that the “zero-calorie” claim isn’t true.

The biggest message I want to convey is about food labels in general. IT’S ALL MARKETING AND SLICK GRAPHICS. Please ignore the front labels of all packages and go immediately to the nutrition and ingredients label. We’ve got to be smarter than the marketing departments.

Now, all I’ve got to do is find a stopwatch to time my ⅓ of a second spray.

Jeff Novick, MS RD explains the “Pam Scam” in this interesting, enlightening and informative video. Please take the time to watch and learn.