Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some pictures, including German and American nutritional labels!

For last Saturday's Schlossbeleuchtung, we had an impromptu barbecue at our apartment. This is actually the smallest amount of food we've ever made for a gathering at our own place, since it was so last-minute - and we still had leftovers! Everyone here brings so much stuff with them to a party - usually at least three items per guest!

Last summer I put some clothes out to dry on the terrace and when I brought them back in, one of these bugs fell out of the clothes. It wasn't so alive anymore, but not completely dead either. It was, frankly, really creepy. I've been drying clothes just inside the door ever since. But this week we saw one just hanging out on our camellia plant! So, now I had an opportunity to take a photo and show it off in all of it's long-antennaed, leaf-butted goodness. I have no clue what it is! I looked up lots of photos of German grasshoppers, but couldn't find anything that looked like this.

They call this stuff buttermilk, but actually it's a beverage that tastes like liquid yogurt and comes in lots of flavors. I found it to be pretty good, once I was able to get past the name and drink it. In the US, buttermilk is usually a cooking ingredient, but some people do drink it straight. (I don't know of anyone who does so, though.)

This is a German food label, and you're lucky if you get this. Some foods are not labeled at all. Occasionally you will find a more detailed label, that includes sodium and fiber. Or if it's one of those rare fortified foods, then it will list the vitamins and minerals. But this pretty standard one includes calories, protein, carbohydrate, and fat information per 100 grams. This is the label from the buttermilk. The 500-gram container is clearly supposed to be one serving (you can't even close it again once you open it) but they still insist on this stupid per-100-grams information, so you can practice math by taking it all times 5 in your head. What's even funnier is when things like sauce mix are marked per-100-grams. You know, in case you're going to just down 100 grams of sauce powder. But anyway, I hate these labels! I just want to know simple things, like am I getting any freaking calcium from this!? And how much? (I am aware that I sound neurotic, but if I could just know what I'm getting so I don't have to start taking a calcium pill to be sure, that would really be nice.)

Sorry for the bad quality. (Note to all: do not get the Canon S5IS. It's unwieldy and takes pictures like this.) This is an American food label. It includes a sometimes-but-not-always reasonable serving size, then information per serving. Calories, fat (including saturated and trans), cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate (including fiber and sugar), protein, and any relevant vitamins and minerals are included. This isn't a good example because I guess there's not much for vitamins and minerals in creamed corn, but we are a little short on American food labels in our apartment for some reason. ;) So this was the best I could do. All foods are labeled like this by law. It's definitely one thing I miss, now that I'm trying to cut the extra expat pounds while still getting enough of everything crucial.


  1. Actually, i think the American label is a bit worse - since it does the stuff per serving, you have to do more math.

    For example, for a diabetic, it's important to know exactly how much carbohydrates are contained (... if they're serious about it anyway).
    In this case, it says 11g. However, that's per 125g serving.
    If you have to watch it, the numbers for a standardized (100g) amount are much better, since there's no way that you'll hit exactly that 125g serving anyway.

    Just looked at a can of Ravioli.
    Gives the same four basics as your German label - per 100g and for the 800g that are in the can. With the little note that a "serving" is 300g, which is ridiculously small (barely a full plate).

    Sodium? ... put some salt on your food.
    Cholesterol? ... if you're worried about that don't eat meat.

    As for the grashopper... probably one of the about 20 local Tettigonioidea races. Looks like a young one. Really common in summer, including inside houses.

  2. I'm not a diabetic (to the best of my knowledge) or a calorie counter or any of that, but it seems to me you're going to have to do math either way. Either you figure out how many servings you had (1? 2.5? Whole damn can?) and do that math to calculate your actual consumption, or you figure out how many 100g gram measurements you consumed (1? 2.5? Whole damn can?) and figure that out the same way. Anyone watching that stuff closely should be armed with a calculator and kitchen scale and/or get familiar with bread unit equivalents.

  3. cliff: Actually, as a diabetic (on strict diet) you'd go and weigh most of your food, especially at home.
    Bread Units are considered only good for estimates nowadays - how you digest the stuff is individual anyway, for a certain person a BU from potatoes might have an entirely different impact on their blood sugar than a BU from noodles.

  4. @Kato:
    So are we saying the same thing?

    I'm saying the label reporting contact per some arbitrary serving size (the "American" labeling style) result in the concerned consumers doing some math after weighing their to-be-consumed portion. And absolute per-100g reporting (the German style) results in concerned consumers doing some math after weighing their to-be-consumed portion.

    But you said "i think the American label is a bit worse - since it does the stuff per serving, you have to do more math." - can you tell me how? I'm trying to understand. Does that mean you only eat in multiples of 100g of all your foods? How do you do that??? :-)

  5. I find it kind of annoying too that I can't find nutritional information on a lot of products. It's like when they passed that legislation in NY that stores had to put how many calories were on their products. Suddenly people were realizing their morning muffin was 600 calories. With weight loss, knowing is often half the battle.

  6. "Does that mean you only eat in multiples of 100g of all your foods?"

    Well, I think it's easier to just go "ok, i have 220g, that means 2.2 times those 11g carbs" in my head - instead of whipping out the calculator.

  7. The grasshopper is probably a "Punktierte Zartschrecke", definitely a female one (look at the sabre like sting at its end). or Google will show you some pictures of it.

    Greetings from Cologne,

  8. ok, i just found something ridiculous on a fish can.

    it lists roughly the same stuff as the US label (protein, sodium, total fat, saturated fat, total carbs, sugar, fiber) - and it lists it in three columns for:
    - weight (per 100g)
    - per serving (100g)
    - guideline daily amount (%)

    ... and yes, the values in the first and second column are the same.

  9. Kato, I think it depends on the product. Something very light listed per 100 grams so it ends up having to be divided by 17 or something is awkward. US serving sizes aren't always great but are usually pretty close to what someone would actually eat. Also Americans measure food by volume instead of weight so if one wants exactly the listed serving size, they can just scoop it out with a measuring cup, to hit the serving size exactly. Just as easy as it is for Germans to toss something on the scale. (Kitchen scales aren't as common in the US.)
    Regarding sodium, generally people are looking to get LESS of it, not more. It's hard to get too little sodium. Cholesterol content could be important info for those with familial hypercholesterolemia, so I think it's relevant to include since it can hide in processed foods. Avoiding meat entirely just to avoid cholesterol is really throwing the baby out with the bath water, I think.
    Really my main issue with the German labels isn't the measurement (though it can be annoying), it's the lack of vitamin info. But as I mentioned earlier I think I need to give up on my quest to get all my vitamins because the recommendations can't be right. ;) I can eat 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day and still not get enough, but it's all the doctor tells you to do...?
    As for the fish can you saw, that's really bizarre. I wonder how they decide what to show, since some things show nothing at all, so it doesn't seem there's any regulation about it.

    Cliff: Yeah, it's some math either way, but as I mentioned to Kato the US serving sizes are at least close to what one would consume which isn't always the case with 100g. But as I also said to him the thing I wonder most about is vitamins/minerals. I don't even know what bread units are...heh!

    Naechste: I think people really are often surprised to find out what is or isn't in their food! At least, for me....but I have a very strong desire for things to be quantified...

    Robert: Thanks for the bug info!! I haven't seen another one since then. The funny shape on the back was definitely the most noticeable and interesting thing about it.

  10. I also miss the U.S. nutritional label. On Saturday I purchased a bottle of "Multi-Vitamin Juice." When I read the label I thought I was getting some powerful stuff…until I realized the "per 100 mg" part. I'd have to drink the entire bottle to get even one day's worth of my recommended allowance of anything!

  11. What I like about food labelling here is the plain-english ... well, plain-german labelling with expiration dates ... no more guessing what the secret code on the top of the can really means.

  12. I'm right there with you on the food labels. I still find myself looking for the nutrition info in the grocery store...only to be sorely disappointed.

  13. I know I'm WAY late on this, but did you ever figure out what the bug is? It looks like some weird German katydid to me.

  14. Think that's the same kind of bug as this one? Sarah got greeted by this dude in our kitchen one morning recently.

  15. Erin: Guess you'll have to down some food to get the rest :)

    Mike B: That is true, it is usually very easy to find the expiration date!!

    Achtung: Well, there are a few of us then! :)

    Cliff: Maybe that's the male version of the thing I saw? Man if I find one in the kitchen....*shudder* I like my bugs outside.

  16. Hallo - Es ist gut, wie interessante Inhalte zu lesen. Ich stimme mit vielem, was hier geschrieben steht, und ich werde wiederkommen.
    Nochmals vielen Dank für die Buchung so große Lektüre !! Um weitere relevante Informationen finden Sie hier
    TestiGo Erfahrungen
    MaxMan und TestiGo


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