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the adventures of a MAD mom

Modified Atkins Diet For Seizures blog on reading nutritional labels

Very shortly after beginning the diet, we learned about calculating label information. This consists of taking the myth out of what is know as nutritional labeling. Turns out, nutritional labels are incorrect MOST of the time. The formula goes:

  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories

Fat, carbohydrates, and protein are the only nutrients that contribute calories to food. Add up the calories from these three nutrients to get the total calories shown on the label.

On the Modified Atkins Diet for Seizures, if the package shows more calories after you have calculated this out, the balance of the calories are assumed to be carbs unless you can prove otherwise. Therefore, the following Trader Joe’s Spicy Italian Sausage Link label information shows 1 carb on the package, and a total of 190 calories. 

Here’s the math:

  • 10 grams of fat x 9 calories per gram = 90 calories
  •  1 gram of carb x 4 calories per gram = 4 calories
  • 22 grams of protein x 4 calories per gram = 88 calories

                                                              90 + 4 + 88 = 182 calories

There are 8 missing calories. The carb formula is 1 carb = 4 calories, so there are actually 2 additional carbs, for a total of 3 per sausage, or 2 after you subtract the 1g. of dietary fiber to get to net carbs. That can very quickly derail the diet when you only have 15 carbs for the whole day.

Trader Joe’s Spicy Italian Sausage Nutrition Facts Serving Size: 1 link (112g) Amount per Serving  • Calories 190 Calories from Fat 90 % Daily Value * • Total Fat 10g 15% • Saturated Fat 3g 15% • Cholesterol 75mg 25% • Sodium 780mg 32% • Total Carbohydrate 1g 0% • Dietary Fiber 1g 4% • Protein 22g 44% • Vitamin A6% • Vitamin C6% • Calcium2% • Iron8% Est. Percent of Calories from: Fat 47.4% Carbs 2.1% Protein 46.3%

Following is especially amusing label  information from Niman Ranch Bacon.  The calories show 70 per serving, but where are they coming from???? I don’t even know where to start with this one.

Bacon Niman Ranch Nutritional Facts (1 serving) calories: 70, fat: 0g, carbs: 0g, protein: 0g Total Fat 0.0 g Saturated Fat 0.0 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g Cholesterol 0.0 mg Amount Per Serving Sodium 0.0 mg Potassium 0.0 mg Total Carbohydrate 0.0 g Dietary Fiber 0.0 g Sugars 0.0 g Protein 0.0 g Vitamin A 0.0 % Vitamin B-12 0.0 % Vitamin B-6 0.0 % Vitamin C 0.0 % Vitamin D 0.0 % Vitamin E 0.0 % Calcium 0.0 % Copper 0.0 % Folate 0.0 % Iron 0.0 % Magnesium 0.0 % Manganese 0.0 % Niacin 0.0 % Pantothenic Acid 0.0 % Phosphorus 0.0 % Riboflavin 0.0 % Selenium 0.0 % Thiamin 0.0 % Zinc 0.0 % *Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

For the first month + of the diet, we were counting cream as 0 carbs (since that is what the label read). It was during our first follow-up visit that the dietitian told us that cream did indeed contain carbs – about .4 cbs per tablespoon of whole cream and 1 cb. per tablespoon for whipping cream. I carefully examined our cartons of Alta Dena Whole Cream and Alta Dena Whipping Cream. The labels did not calculate out, so I called the consumer line listed on the internet for Alta Dena. I spoke to a very nice man who told me he would have to get the information for the correct calculations and call me back. I waited a week before calling again and speaking to a very nice young lady who had all my information in the system, but again had no answers for me. She told me she would call back within a week. Good thing I did not hold my breath.

Needless to say, I still have no idea how many carbs the Alta Dena brands actually contains. I especially like this label I found on the Alta Dena website ( for Heavy Whipping Cream. At the bottom it actually lists out the calories per gram of Fat, Protein and Carbs. So they do, in fact, understand the formula, but can’t actually make it add up on their label. 50 Calories per tbsp. 5 from fat x 9 = 45, and zero from any other source, though they do list protein as 0g, but 22% of your daily value. Not sure how that works, but it leaves 5 calories unaccounted for which could be protein or carbs or some of both but I am pretty sure that I am not going to be getting verification via a follow-up phone call any time soon.

Alta Dena Heavy Whipping Cream Nutrition Facts Serving Size 1 tbsp (15 mL) Servings Per Container 32 Amount Per Serving Calories 50 Calories from Fat 50 % Daily Value * Total Fat 5g 8% Saturated Fat 3.5g 17% Trans Fat 0g Cholesterol 20mg 7% Sodium 5mg 0% Total Carbohydrate 0g 0% Dietary Fiber 0g 0% Sugars 0g Protein 0g 22% Vitamin A 4% Vitamin C 0% Calcium 2% Iron 0% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Calories: 2,000 2,500 Total Fat Less than 65g 80g Sat Fat Less than 20g 25g Cholesterol Less than 300mg 300mg Sodium Less than 2,400mg 2,400mg Total Carbohydrate 300g 375g Dietary Fiber 25g 30g Calories per gram: Fat 9 Carbohydrate 4 Protein 4

To be fair, I understand that the government gives some sort of margin of error to the manufacturers. But come on, when there are only a couple of ingredients in a product could they not work out the details?

This calculation of each and every food your MAD dieter ingests is very time-consuming to say the least. We now save the labels of Casey’s favorite foods and compile them in a binder with their “real” values. This saves us a lot of time that we can spend on “fun” things like experimenting with low carb recipes or skinning pork bellies.


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