These front-of-the-box claims have specific meanings, defined by government regulation. Read the definitions carefully. Some promise less than you might think.
"Calorie-free" means the food contains less than 5 calories per serving.
"Low calorie" means the food contains 40 calories or less per serving. (For serving size,
check the "Nutrition Facts" box on the back.)
"Reduced calorie" means the food contains at least 25 percent fewer calories than regular
versions of the product.
"Lite" or "light" means the food contains one-third fewer calories or one-half the fat of the
traditional version of the food.
"Fat-free" means the food contains less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.
"Free" means the food contains none or trivial amounts of a substance, such as sodium, fat,
cholesterol, calories, or sugars.
"Low-fat" means 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
"Reduced fat" (same as "reduced calorie") means it contains at least 25 percent less fat than
regular versions of the food. (Note that a "reduced fat" mayonnaise or margarine will still
contain plenty of fat. "Reduced fat" may be many calories away from "low-fat.")
"Cholesterol-free" means the food has no more than 2 milligrams of cholesterol and 2 grams
or less of saturated fat per serving.
"Low cholesterol" means the food has no more than 20 milligrams of cholesterol and 2
grams or less of saturated fat per serving.
"Low saturated fat" means the food has 1 gram or less per serving.
"Lean" means fewer than 10 grams of fat, four grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of
cholesterol per serving and per 100 grams of a food. "Extra lean" means the same thing,
except the food has less than 2 grams of saturated fat and less than 5 grams of total fat.
"Fresh" means unprocessed, uncooked, unfrozen (for example, fresh or freshly-squeezed
orange juice). Washing and coating of fruits and vegetables are allowed. If a food has been
quickly frozen, it can be described as fresh-frozen, which is commonly done with fresh fish.
"Healthy" means the food may contain no more than 3 grams of fat (including one gram of
saturated fat) and 60 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. The food must also contain 10
percent of the daily value of one of these nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron,
protein, or fiber. "Healthy" individual foods must contain no more than 300 milligrams of
sodium; prepackaged meals can't exceed 480 milligrams. There is no limit on the sugar
content in "healthy" food.
"Natural flavors" The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act defines "natural flavors" as:
"the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any
product of roasting, heating, or enzymolysis, which contains a flavoring constituent derived
from a spice, fruit, fruit juice, vegetable, vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root,
leaf, or similar plant material; meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation
products thereof whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. This
broad definition simply means that "natural flavors" are extracts from these nonsynthetic
"Good source" means a serving must contain 10 to 19 percent of the daily value of a
particular nutrient (e.g., vitamin A).
"High" (e.g., high-iron) means the serving contains 20 percent or more of the recommended
daily value of this nutrient.
"Less" (e.g., less salt) means the food contains at least one-quarter less of this nutrient than
the regular food to which it is compared (e.g., contains less sodium than the usual vegetable
"More" (e.g., more vitamin C) means that a serving contains at least 10 percent more of the
daily value of this nutrient than the usual food to which it is compared (e.g., more vitamin C
than tomato juice).
"Energy" (e.g., energy drinks) refers to any product that contains calories. Just about any
drink, except water, could meet that definition.
"Not from concentrate." When this label
appears on fruit juice packages, many consumers believe that these juices must be
nutritionally superior. Not necessarily so. Concentrating juices simply means that the water
is removed and the consumer adds it back before drinking. Concentrating a juice is more of
an economic change than a nutritional one. The smaller packages are cheaper to transport
and store. Although the taste of freshly-squeezed juice may be better, nutritionally it may
not matter whether a juice was concentrated once or not. Of course, the juice you squeeze at
home is always more nutritious, since it has not be subjected to pasteurization, processing, or