Reading and Understanding the New Nutrition Facts Panel

I often spend what seems like hours reading the labels on the food products I’m considering buying at the grocery store. And I always find unpleasant surprises such as how a simple can of kidney beans often contains either high fructose corn syrup or sugar If you didn’t look you wouldn’t know and you’d be adding unnecessary calories to your chili or whatever dish you were planning to make. And who needs extra calories? Who wants sugar in their beans? I certainly don’t. And so I was happy that my friend Kath Beyer sent me some fascinating information on Pyure that takes stevia plants and refines them into a powerful but non-caloric sweetener we can use as a sugar substitute. But even better, the article she sent shows how to really read the new nutrition panels on the foods we buy.

Stevia is a plant product that can be used as a sugar substitute

First some background. As much as we love our sweets and sweet tastes, no one wants the extra calories nor what sugar does to our health. There are many sweeteners on the market but Pyure is a line of plant-based, sugar substitutes created for people who want the best sweeteners for both their taste and the health benefits we’re all looking for.

The Pyure Process

It starts with harvesting and drying the highest quality leaves from the best tasting species of organic, non-GMO stevia plants.

Then through a process similar to steeping tea, we extract the very sweetest part of the stevia leaf.

What’s left with is known as Reb A, a fine white powder 350 times the sweetness of table sugar!

For more information, the Sweet Talk blog is filled with information about the benefits of organic and zero-calorie stevia products.

Sugar and the New Food Label

Families using Pyure are taking a step towards more healthy eating.

First the Really Bad News

We as Americans consume WAY too much sugar. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the average person consumes approximately 17 teaspoons per day or 270 calories from added sugars. The World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugar to 10% of our total daily calories (about 50 grams for a 2000 calorie diet) while the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 24 grams per day (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams per day (9 teaspoons) for men. 

That means we are typically eating almost three times the AHA recommendations. According to the FDA, scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.

The new nutrition label makes it easier than ever to identify sugar and added sugars in your food.

Identifying added sugars on the label.

Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods like fruits, veggies, and dairy products like milk or plain unsweetened yogurt. These nutrient-dense foods are encouraged as part of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, and the sugar grams found in them will count towards the total carbohydrates on the label.

The new label also requires listing “Added Sugars” in grams and as a percent Daily Value (%DV). The added sugars category includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods or are packaged as is, like a bag of white sugar. It also includes sugars from syrups and honey, sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices and sugar added to dried fruit. 

The question of “refined sugar” can be confusing. Bottom line. When it comes to our bodies, sugar is sugar. Agave, coconut sugar and pure maple syrup may be marketed as better for you, but they are still 100% sugar and all count towards the proposed daily limits for added sugars.

The new labels are a huge improvement for savvy consumers because until now it was impossible to distinguish the amount of sugar that was added to foods containing both naturally occurring and added forms of sugar like flavored yogurt or a fruit and nut granola bar.

What about low and no calorie sweeteners?

Low and no calorie sweeteners like stevia are not included in added sugars since they do not provide significant calories, carbohydrates or behave like sugar in the body. That’s important for the more than 100 million Americans living with diabetes or prediabetes, as well as diseases like low blood sugar.

Since stevia is 200 to 300 times as sweet as sugar only a tiny amount is needed to achieve the sweet taste we look for in our favorite foods. That makes stevia or products sweetened with stevia an easy way to help manage the amount of sugar we consume.

Where do you find sugar alcohols on the label?

Since sugar alcohols fall into their own category, they have their own line on the nutrition facts panel. Sweeteners, like erythritol, that contribute zero calories per gram do not affect glucose or insulin levels, but they are counted in the total carbohydrate content on the food label. 

That adds a bit of confusion, so there is a separate line for these sugar alcohols under the “sugars” line on the food label. To calculate the “net carbs,” subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrate grams. For example, Pyure Organic Maple Flavored Syrup (1/4 cup serving):

Total carbohydrate: 27 g

Dietary Fiber: 13 g

Erythritol: 10 g

Net carbs = 4 g 

Only foods that actually contain sugar alcohols will have the separate line listed on the label, making them easier to identify.

Although the new label is more realistic and designed to be easier to read, when it comes to carbohydrates and sugars, there is still some sleuthing that needs to be done. We hope this breakdown clears everything up for you.

Now we’ve learned about reading labels, let’s take a break and try one of the recipes on Pyure website.

Keto Cream Cheese Pancakes

Adapted from Healthy Recipes, these pancakes feel indulgent without all the artificial sugar. Top with your favorite fruit, sugar-free maple syrup alternative, or sugar-free hunny alternative.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Microwave the cream cheese for 10-20 seconds to soften it. Make sure it doesn’t turn into liquid. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs well with a hand whisk.
  3. Add the cream cheese, vanilla, and stevia. Whisk until well incorporated and smooth. This will require some time and patience!
  4. Heat half the butter in two mini nonstick skillets (or use an egg frying pan) over medium heat. Add ¼ of the batter to each skillet. Cook until golden brown and set on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil.
  5. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter to the pans.

Sources:

I’ll soon be sharing more product information, recipes, and nutritional information.

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