“So good you won’t know it’s healthy.” That’s what the Artic Zero marketers say about their 150-calorie-per-pint lice ice cream. But beware: It may not be as good as it seems.
According to a Today Show special investigation, not all “light” frozen treats are really as low-calorie as they claim on their labels. While many products tested were within 10% of what the label stated, some were WAY over in calories becoming frozen dessert calorie traps. The worst frozen low-cal frauds of all included:
Artic Zero Chocolate Peanut Butter: 68% more calories than the label.
Artic Zero Vanilla Maple Ice Cream: 46% more calories than the label
Weight Watchers Ice Cream Candy Bar: 16% more calories than the label
Weight Watchers Giant Chocolate Fudge Sundae Cone: 13% more calories than the label
To put this into perspective, a ½ cup serving of Artic Zero says it provides just 37 calories but the Today Show analyses found that a ½ cup of the Chocolate Peanut Butter contains 62 calories and the Vanilla Maple, 54 calories.
Most people don’t eat a ½ cup: If you eat a cup of Artic Zero Chocolate Peanut Butter, you’d add 124 calories to you diet when you thought you were only eating 74 calories! That’s a 50 calorie difference that can add up to pounds gained over time.
I first heard about Artic Zero a couple years ago from a friend who was swearing by it, saying it was so delicious but also so low in calories. I bought it and tasted it and agreed that it was delicious and that it tasted too good to be true. In fact, I never bought it again because I never thought the label wasn’t correct. It’s the small differences in calories that when you do them day in and day out, make big differences over time.
The sad news is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows for up to 20% above or below of what’s stated for the nutritionals on all food labels, which makes it hard for anyone who really counts calories.
But as a general rule, low-cal or not, these are treat foods that provide little nutrition outside of sugar and fat, so we really should be eating them on occasion–they’re not everyday foods.
Here’s what to do to avoid letting misleading labels destroy your diet:
- Be skeptical. When it comes to local or regional companies, most don’t spend the thousands of dollars to send their products out for laboratory testing; they just run a rudimentary nutritional software package on their ingredients to come up with the Nutrition Facts on their labels. Most brands that run into misleading labels are small, private firms.
- If you question a products claims (it tastes too good to be true!) then Google your suspicion and see what you find. Maybe there are a lot of others out there saying the same thing. If there are others thinking the same thing you are, chances are you’re all right. You can also contact the FDA and report what you think. It’s doubtful that they would do anything about it, but at least you can feel like you’ve done something about it.
- Tell us! We’re in contact with most food companies so let us know when you think something is fishy on food labels. We have found misinformation on labels on several occasions and have made food manufacturers aware of the problem.
–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD