Understanding food labels is not as difficult as decoding the Da Vinci Code. It’s a much simpler affair but one can get lost in the amount of literature printed on product packages. When everybody is pressed on time and you have a huge list of grocery shopping, it is difficult to understand what the food labels mean. So what do you do?
Food labels have all the necessary information about the ingredients present in a product. You can choose products wisely and keep a check on the number of ingredients that are supposed to be taken in limited quantities; such as fats, sugars, preservatives, sodium, artificial colors, etc
Labels tell you the number of energy levels usually referred to as calories/Kilojoules in every product. All foods marked ‘light’ do not necessarily mean low in calories; they can be light on salt, sugar or taste. So read carefully. Packages also include information on fat (saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol), carbohydrate (sugars and dietary fibers), protein and salt.
All nutrition counts are provided per 100 grams or per serving of the food. Understanding nutritional values based on serving size are very important.
Labels help you choose your healthy options wisely during shopping. It can help consumers make educated buying decisions. So here are some tips to help you choose your foods.
This is the trickiest part. It explains the size of the single serving considered normal and serving per packet. If the average size of serving states 50 grams and serving per packet is 100 grams. You could consume double the amounts of nutrients, fats, and calories.
It is very important for health-conscious people to understand that calorie counts are generally given as per 100 grams. So if you consume more than 100 grams of a product, you end up consuming more calories than listed. You can opt for low-fat products as good alternatives.
Know your body calorie intake:
Everybody needs different calories in a day based on their metabolism. A calorie count is a guide to nutrients in one serving of food. In general 2000 calories diet – 400 calories are low, 100 calories are moderate and 400 calories is high.
Similar to calories even Nutrients are listed as per 100 grams. Nutrients are trans fats and total fats, cholesterol, sodium, salts, calcium, proteins, carbohydrates and potassium. The chart helps you decide if the product should be purchased or avoided for health reasons. Heart patients should avoid products with higher cholesterol and fats. Products high on calcium can be good for osteoporosis and old people. The rich fiber content in products can help in dietary functions.
Know your allergies:
Products also list ingredients, which could be allergic to certain people such as wheat gluten, artificial colors, and preservatives. Also, you can consciously avoid dairy products, animal fats, and certain ingredients. Other foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, finned fish, sesame and soybeans and their products, when present in food, may cause allergies to some people.
Vegetarian and non-vegetarian products:
Vegetarian products are marked with a green dot, and non-vegetarian products are marked with red.
Every product has an expiry date. A lot of dairies, baked and meat products have a shorter shelf life. So check the manufacturing and expiry dates on the package.