Facts + food = guilty pleasures

Remember the good old days when the closest thing to consumer information on a food product was "Open Other End?"

Not anymore. Now, all our packaged foods are covered with so much frightening information, it's a wonder we eat them at all. The government-required "Nutrition Facts" labels, such a boon to dieters, have taken all the fun out of noshing.

Maybe that was the whole idea. When an entire nation's bombarded with daily alerts about the Obesity Epidemic, perhaps the powers-that-be thought it would be a good idea to put us off our feed.

Naturally, it hasn't worked. The Nutrition Facts, which seemed so valuable and shocking when we first started reading how much sugar was in a bowl of Froot Loops, have become old hat. I suspect most of us don't even notice the labels anymore, and they wouldn't affect our eating habits if we did.

When you're craving a bowl of ice cream, you won't be stopped by such trivial obstacles as calorie counts or fat content. You'll by golly have a bowl of ice cream, if it kills you (which, over time, it just might).

Even the scariest warnings won't stop us from enjoying ourselves. Generations of cigarette smokers are proof of that.

All the Nutrition Facts (and tobacco warnings) really accomplish is to make consumers feel guilty. If you consistently read the Nutrition Facts on everything you eat, you'll worry over every morsel you consume. Plus, you'll suffer from eyestrain.

As I write this, I have before me a box of raisins, your standard lunchbox fare, about the size of a pack of cigarettes. Could anything be healthier than a box of raisins? Nature's own dried fruit, full of iron and potassium and dietary fiber.

Let's examine the Nutrition Facts, which cover one entire side of the raisin box. Calories: 130 (Ouch.). Calories from Fat: 0 (Good, good.) Total carbohydrate: 31 grams, or 10 percent of the carbs you're supposed to consume in a whole day. Excuse me? That's right, 10 percent. The sugar in these sweet treats make them absolutely forbidden on most diets. Dang.

Sometimes, the Nutrition Facts are amusing because they state the obvious. On the raisins, for instance, the label says, "Ingredients: Raisins." Check any bottled water and you'll find, "Ingredients: Water" and a full Nutrition Facts breakdown, even though all the numbers are zero.

A bag of pretzels in my pantry says "Fat Free" in big letters on the front, but the ingredients on the back include "canola oil," which, the label admits, "adds a trivial amount of fat." You've got to love that. That's what I'm telling my doctor next time he puts me on the scales: "It's OK, Doc, that's just a trivial amount of fat."

In my latest feeble attempt at dieting, I bought some "Fat Free SnackWells Devil's Food Cookie Cakes." Just a little treat to keep me from chewing my fingernails back to the first knuckle.

You'd think anything with the words "cookie" and "cake" right there on the label would be bad for you, no matter how "fat free" they might be. And they probably are. But the Nutrition Facts show that two "cookie cakes" have less sugar/carbohydrates than the healthy box of raisins. Which do you think I'll eat?

If you guessed "both," then you are correct. Because when it comes to nutrition, I want it all.

And that's a fact.

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