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Chris Fordney: The junk is all in the label

A few hours into every copy-editing shift here at The Daily Miracle, I'm faced with the same decision.

Is it gonna be potato chips or corn chips?

Down at the Strasburg
7-Eleven, they sell both, of course, along with a lot of other salty, tasty snack food.

But both are not equal.

It's a good idea to check the nutrition label before buying junk food, and a 99 cent bag of Brand X potato chips says it has 26 percent of total daily fat value.

A 99 cent bag of Brand Y corn chips, in a slightly smaller bag, says it has 15 percent of daily fat value.

Go with the corn chips, right?

But then why does the bag of corn chips feel like a bowling ball in your stomach, while the potato chips only feel like a baseball?

Because we forgot to look at the small print, which shows that there's one serving in the bag of potato chips while there are an alleged 3.5 servings in the bag of corn chips, which means the bag of corn chips has more than half the amount of fat you're supposed to get in a day and is actually a far worse choice for your heart.

But that's how it works in the food industry, which employs no end of tricks and manipulation to get you to clear stuff off the shelves, no matter how destructive their products can be to your heart or arteries.

You have to be on your guard eating out or shopping at the grocery store, where you can't find basic bran flakes anymore because there are so many variations with strawberries or vanilla clusters or free of such exotica as gluten or wood chips or whatever. And there are so many sales and special offers and two-for-one deals out there that you feel really ripped off when you actually have to pay the retail price for an item.

Eating out is another whole universe of cardiac lethality and price confusion, although some restaurant chains, after enduring bad publicity about appetizers loaded down with an entire day's worth of calories and fat, are kind of getting the message and offer "smart choice" or "healthy option" sections in their menus.

You have to wonder what would happen if it was the other way around, if the healthy dishes were the default offerings and you'd have to ask that your meal be loaded down with the heavy sauces and creams. People might be in better shape if you had to say to the waiter: "Would you please ask the cook to add half a stick of butter to my pasta dish."

A couple of years ago, the food industry came up with "superfoods" that were said to not only be healthy, but actually fought disease with cancer-fighting antioxidants and cholesterol-reducing margarines. Eating salmon or trout or albacore tuna was said to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Then, last week, the Associated Press reported on another new trend, "functional foods," with "once-demonized foods being spiked with nutrients to give them a healthier glow -- and consumers are biting, even on some that are little more than dressed-up junk food."

A breakfast cereal loaded with sugar now has some bone-strengthening vitamins, or candy bars are disguised as granola with just a little extra nutrients, or fattening ice creams are loaded up with extra calcium.

So there's more reason than ever to read the nutrition labels.


Contact Chris Fordney at cfordney@nvdaily.com

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