The most important thing you can do to improve your health is to learn how to read food labels. I really mean that. If you don’t know what you’re eating, how can you hope to maintain a healthy eating plan?

You may think you know how to read a food label, but let’s test that. What is the percent of fat calories in a glass of 2% low fat milk? This may seem like a trick question, but if you said 2%, then keep reading.

The term “2% Milkfat” on the carton refers to the percentage of fat by volume in the milk, not the percentage of fat calories. So, to determine the percentage of fat calories, we need to do some more investigating. Take a look at the Nutrition Facts panel from a carton of 2% Low Fat Milk (below).

Notice that there are 5 grams of total fat in a normal serving. Since fat contains 9 calories per gram, that means there are a total of 45 calories from fat in a normal serving (9 x 5). You can confirm this by looking at the line near the top that lists the “Calories” and “Calories from Fat”. This line shows that there are actually 43 calories from fat in a serving (there is some rounding in the numbers).

If we now take the number of fat calories divided by the total calories (43 divided by 122), we find that a serving of 2% Low Fat Milk actually contains 35% of calories from fat! This is far above the 20% of calories from fat that most people should consume each day. It’s still much better than whole milk, though. Whole milk actually contains a whopping 50% of calories from fat! (Btw: The Fat Finder pocket calculator makes does this same calculation quickly and easily.)

The moral of this lesson is to always check the Nutrition Facts panel of the foods you buy. Descriptions like “Low Fat” or “2% Milkfat” are put on the front of food packages by the manufacturer to sell products. Don’t always believe what you read. Check the Nutrition Facts panel for the real story!

B. A. Fat Finder!

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