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Shoppers' Report : Ralphs Tells All . . . About Nutrition


Pink shelf tags highlight foods that are both "low fat/cholesterol," although there is no legal definition for low cholesterol. FDA has proposed that products bearing the "low-cholesterol label" contain less than 20 milligrams of cholesterol per serving; low-fat foods are those with 2 grams or less of total fat per serving and less than 10% fat dry weight.

Green shelf tags highlight foods in the "very-low-sodium" category. Items must contain 35 milligrams of sodium or less per serving. "The most beneficial part of this program is the sodium labeling," Harper says. "Sodium is so pervasive in the supermarket. It's hidden everywhere and is still not obvious on (product) labels. You have to look for it."

These classifications also are used in the free brochure that accompanies the program. Foods are listed by category, such as bakery, dairy, meats and condiments. Then, an asterisk determines the color of the shelf tag used to identify the product.

Ralphs' private-label products are included in NutriGuide. So are items in the chain's service deli including entrees, salads and side dishes. Deli items must adhere to the American Heart Assn.'s Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Adults: eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day, limit fat intake to 30% of total calories for the day and consume no more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily.

Footnotes throughout the booklet caution those on special diets. One notation explains that some varieties of Jell-O Pudding and Pie Filling or Royal's Pistachio Nut or Vanilla instant pudding and pie fillings merit the "low-fat/cholesterol" tag provided that they are prepared with low-fat milk.

And some items are given a multiple listing. Apple juice, for instance, is both "low fat/cholesterol" and "very low sodium."

"The people who desire the one-product cure-all are a real dilemma," Brooks complains. "There's going to be some people that think a food in and of itself is bad or great but we hope people will realize nutrition is a science and there are a lot of things that have to be considered."

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