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Obesity Experts Say New Nutrition Labels Will Help Medical and Surgical Weight Loss Patients Make Healthier Food Choices

By New Jersey Bariatric Center Staff | February 27, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY  ̶  The FDA’s proposed changes to nutrition labels will make it easier for bariatric surgery and medical weight loss patients to make healthy decisions at the grocery store, say the doctors and dietitians at New Jersey Bariatric Center®, a medical and surgical weight loss center that performs Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve and LAP-BAND procedures with offices in Springfield, Somerville and Hoboken, New Jersey.

“One of the very first lessons we teach our weight loss surgery patients and our medical weight loss patients is that they need to start thinking more critically about what they put into their bodies,” says Dr. Ajay Goyal, medical director of New Jersey Bariatric Center®. “Making the labels easier to read is a good start but patients who are considering Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve or LAP-BAND surgery will still need to be educated on basic nutrition to put the information in the labels in perspective.”

Nutrition labels have remained mostly unchanged since they were first required to be put on packaging, while health claims put in bold letters on the front of packaging have evolved, adding to the confusion among many consumers, says New Jersey Bariatric Center® dietitian Meagan Butler, RD.

“Gluten-free, low-fat, low-carbs, whole grains: You’ll often see these plastered on boxes and bags and people think these terms mean the food they are buying is healthy when that may not be the case at all,” says Butler.  “So turning that box or bag over and reading these new labels is important to make an informed decision.”

Under the proposed changes, which won't take effect for a few years, nutrition labels will now list foods packaged in single-serving containers, such as a bag of chips or a bottle of soda, as one serving instead of multiple servings. “Portion sizes are a major area of concern for most people,” Butler said. “This will enable the consumer to know how many calories they are consuming at a glance without having to do the math.”

Another change that weight loss patients will need to be aware of is one that lists “added sugars.”

Sugar occurs naturally in some foods, Butler explained. Fruit, milk and milk products like plain yogurt have natural sugars.  The current food label only lists total sugars, which makes it difficult to differentiate between sugars that occur naturally in food and sweeteners that have been added, such as corn syrup.

For instance, 6 ounces of flavored Greek yogurt lists 17 grams of sugar under the current label but about 7 grams of that occurs naturally in the yogurt.

“Most people just eat way too much sugar,” says Butler. “Often, it is added to products that you wouldn’t expect it to be in.  This will make it easier for medical and surgical weight loss patients to compare similar products and choose ones that have fewer added sugars.”

In general, Butler says women should have no more than 26 grams of added sugar per day or about 6 ½ teaspoons. Men should have no more than 38 grams of sugar per day or about 9.5 teaspoons. by comparison, one 12-oz can of soda has 41 grams of sugar.

New Jersey Bariatric Center®’s comprehensive medical and surgical weight loss programs include nutritional counseling. Staff dietitians work closely with patients to review their food choices, identify problem areas and make modifications to help them achieve their weight loss goals. Medical Weight loss patients also have the option of adding the OptiFast meal replacement program or medication to their customized weight loss plan.

For people who have not been able to lose weight through diet alone, weight loss surgery, such as gastric bypass, gastric sleeve or LAP-BAND is available to those who qualify. Weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, has been recognized as the “most effective treatment” for morbid obesity by the Society of American Gastrointestinal & Endoscopic Surgeons. Weight loss surgery surgically alters the stomach so patients eat less.

For more information about medical or surgical weight loss or tips on what you need to know about the new nutrition labeling, contact Community Relations manager Bonnie Smolen at 908-481-1270.

About New Jersey Bariatric Center®
New Jersey Bariatric Center®, a medical & surgical weight loss center with offices in Springfield, Somerset and Hoboken, New Jersey, helps patients achieve long-term weight loss success through the most advanced bariatric surgery procedures, including gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, LAP-BAND  and REALIZE Band procedures. Free monthly patient education seminars are held five times a month in Woodbridge, Summit, Springfield, Bridgewater and Secaucus, NJ, for individuals interested in learning more about weight loss surgery. To view dates or register for a seminar, visit our Free Seminar page or call 908-481-1270.

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