Diet Tip; Read the Small Print!!!

There are many, many different “diets” to choose from and follow if you are trying to shed a few pounds in weight, but at the end of the day the basic formula is that you need to consume less calories than you burn off and be careful of your portion sizes.

While following a recipe earlier in the week, I wanted to adapt it slightly so that I could make it a little “healthier” in that I wanted to use less pasta to reduce the calorie content slightly.

Now I have an app which will scan the bar-code of a product and then you enter the quantity and it works out all the nutritional content for you, but this day I was writing down the ingredients and working it out as I went along and I made a discovery……

Nutritional labels can be misleading if you don’t read them carefully….

I was looking at a packet of Cannelloni pasta and trying to work out how many calories were in each tube, how many were supposed to be in a portion etc.  and I was struggling – it wasn’t making sense… then I realised what was going on.

When I look at nutritional labels I always go by the “per 100g” table and would normally think that this was correct.  On my pack of Cannelloni it says that there are 155kcal per 100g, so you would think that a standard 75g portion would be 116kcals.. WRONG!!!!!

Next to the 100g table, is another which says “per 180g cooked pasta (approx 75g dry pasta) which says that it is 280kcal.  So I checked the maths and yes this did work back correctly to 155kcal per 100g but nowhere did it state that this was the calorie content of COOKED pasta.

So I began to check a few other labels and discovered that there is quite a variation in how they are presented.

  • A packet of Fusilli pasta said “per 100g (as consumed)” 124kcal but a 75g portion was 224kcal – therefore 100g COOKED pasta was the stated 124kcal
  • a pack of Cous Cous again says “per 100g (as consumed) 107kcal with a note saying that 35g uncooked cous cous weighs approximately 80g when cooked, and on the front of the packet it says “an 80g serving (boiled) provides 86kcal”.  Now I wouldn’t be surprised if most people looked at the information on the front and saw that a serving size was 80g, weighed out 80g for their meal missing the bit in small print which says that 35g yields a cooked weight of 80g, and Whoops! have now consumed something like 250kcal when they thought they were only having 86 – THREE TIMES AS MUCH! (I actually had to resort to searching on the internet to confirm the calorie content of dry cous cous as being over 300kcal per 100g)
  • Quinoa; per 100g (cooked as directed) 111kcal – per 1/10 pack 34kcal.  Right, the packet has 300g so 1/10 equals 30g quinoa is 34kcal, Again, a hunt on the internet discovers that 100g dry weight Quinoa is approximately 300 calories so actually, so not only is this misleading – this label is incorrect as a 30g portion which makes about 70-80g cooked would be about 80 – 90 calories.  (I will be sending them an e-mail)
  • Rice: again “as consumed per 100g = 114kcals” but a 75g dry weight portion yields 185g cooked making it 210kcals – the dry weight therefore is approximately 280kcal per 100g.

I’ve noticed a similar thing with some Pearl Barley I have, some lasagna appears to have the same issue.  All of these are coming up at around 3 times the number of calories than shown.  Now most of these packs came from the same supermarket so other producers may have their labels differently – but the one that came from a different (leading) supermarket was completely wrong.

So if you are trying to monitor your calorie intake – be very careful with reading the labels, check the recommended portion size in the small print and use the lower weight which yields the correct cooked weight portion and number of calories..

This discovery has actually made me a bit cross as I do not consider myself stupid, yet I was falling for this – I spent 30 years working as an Accountant/Analyst so this sort of stuff is easy for me to work out, but what happens to those who are shall we say a little more challenged when it comes to numbers??  and are struggling to work out why they are carefully counting the calories and sticking to it diligently and not getting the results they should… I feel a campaign coming on….

Who’s with me?

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