How to Read & Understand Food labels

How to Read & Understand Food labels

Today’ consumers are more health-conscious than ever before! They just don’t pick packaged food items that are printed with attractive text/colors/image. In turn, what they look at first is the information or the nutritional facts printed on the food label. They make a selection based on the nutritional value and are not just attracted by its packaging. However, since the food packaging encompasses several information at its front and back sides, this question arises ‘how to read and understand the food labels’. This post is intended to discuss the same in brief.

What to Look on Food Labels?

You may find reading the nutritional information printed on the food label time consuming. However, doing so helps you in differentiating junk food items from healthy ones. Keep in mind the following while reading the food labels:

    • Don’t Get Fooled By False Claims:

      As a consumer you might have been fooled by the claims that are usually printed on the front of the packaging at least once in your life time. These claims are printed in bold and in big letters to catch the attention of the consumer. Never ever get fooled or convinced by such false claims. Most of the times, such claims are just the marketing tactics the product manufacturers use. A few examples for such claims include ‘Multigrain, Natural, Organic, No Added Sugar, Low-Fat, Low Carb’ and so on.

    • Read the Ingredient List:

      It is extremely important that you should read the ingredient list. Read from top to bottom and be informed that the first few ingredients are the mostly used items in the making of the product. However, do not just read the first few ingredients and skip the rest, because you may never know the presence of allergenic substances when you consume it.

    • Nutritional Information:

      It is mandatory for the food product manufacturers to list the quantity of fat, saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol, or sodium used in the making of packed items. If the quantity of these nutrients is on the higher side, consider limiting the intake of the food items as too much of these can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, or high blood pressure. On the other hand, choose those items with quantity of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron on the higher side.

    • Calories:

      As a consumer, you should know how much energy you get from a serving. This section is one of the keenly watched ones by those who would like to manage their weight. When reading the calories chart, keep in mind the following consideration.

      • 40 Calories is low
      • 100 Calories is moderate
      • 400 Calories or more is high

      Always remember eating food products with calories on the higher side leads to obesity, overweight and related health problems.

    • Aware of Hidden Unhealthy Sugars:

      In your food labels, you might have often read several names of sugar such as beet sugar, brown sugar, isomalt, maltodextrins, maple sugar, sorghum or turbinado sugar, buttered sugar, cane sugar, organic raw sugar, confectioner’s sugar, and so on. Eat food products with less added sugar; otherwise, it adds plenty of calories to your body.

    • Understand % Daily Value :

      Many of us get confused reading the term ‘The % Daily Value (DV)’. It is nothing but the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving. In case if you would like to consume a food product with less nutrients, then opt for foods with a lower % DV (5 percent or less). On the other hand choose foods with a higher % DV (20 percent or more) in case you require more nutrients in a serving.

    • Important Dates:

      Rather than the aforementioned information, you must also check the important dates mentioned especially when it comes to food labels. The major dates which need a close watch include Sell By, Use By, and Best Used By. It is important for the consumers to use the product on or before the specified dates.

Reading food labels is not a waste of time as many think. Yet, it is a wise way of selecting the healthiest foods. By using the information printed on the food label, you will not only understand how a food product fits with your nutrient and energy requirements for a day, whilst also helping you make a quick, informed food choices that contribute to a healthy diet.

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