Take use of 'light' with grain of salt or gram of fat


April 20, 1993|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

If you think Doritos' new Tortilla Thins will make you thin, forget it.

They're just as fatting as regular Doritos, weighing in at 140 calories and 7 grams of fat per ounce -- about 10 tiny triangles.

Now don't get me wrong. If you really love Doritos, you can fit a few into a healthy, well-balanced diet. But, really, when was the last time you ate just 10?

And let's face it, if you're really hungry, you could have a banana and a tangerine or a non-fat yogurt and five apricot halves for that same 140 fat-free calories. Or you could have 25 no-oil tortilla chips from Guiltless Gourmet or Bearito for just 110

calories and no fat.

It's just amazing how much close-to-natural food you can eat when you cut down on fat.

And if you're watching your sodium, don't be fooled by their "lightly salted" claim.

Despite the fact that they're a new product, they have apparently decided to operate under the old labeling laws as long as possible, which would be until May 1994.

To be "lightly salted" under the new law, the product would have to have 50 percent less sodium than their other chips, and they'd have to give you the comparison right on the label.

In fact, Nacho Cheese Doritos have 180 milligrams of sodium per ounce. Tortilla Thins have 135. That's only a 25 percent reduction. So within the next year, you'll be seeing a new lable that honestly describes the sodium content of Tortilla Thins.

A variety of new labels will begin to appear soon. "Light" will have several clearly defined meanings:

* If the original food got more than 50 percent of its calories from fat, the "light" version has reduced those fat calories by half.

* If the original food got less than 50 percent of its calories from fat, the "light" food has reduced its calorie count by one-third or has reduced its fat calories by 50 percent.

* If the original food contained less than 40 calories, or less than 3 grams of fat, and the "light" version has 50 percent less sodium.

* If the original food is not low in calories or fat, but the new version has 50 percent less sodium, it can be called "lightly salted."

* "Light" can still be used to describe color or texture, but it has to say "light in color" in the same type style and color.

If you find this confusing, and I do, just check to see if the package carries the new label called "Nutrition Facts." At least then you'll know "light" is a little more trustworthy than before.

But you'll still have to check those facts to know whether it's light in fat, calories, sodium, texture or color.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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