We as dieticians advice people to read the food label before selecting or buying or consuming any packet food product, but do people actually know how to read the labels?
Food labels act as guide to help us understand the nutritive value and other information of the product, thus empowering us to make better and safe choice depending on our need.
It provides details of the product including the name, ingredients, special claims, date of manufacturing and so on.
Food label contain:
1. Name of the Product:
The name of the food includes the trade name or description of the food contained in the package.
2. List of Ingredients:
The names of ingredients used in the product are listed behind the packet. Ingredients are listed from highest to lowest order by weight. Example: if first ingredient in that product is wheat flour, that means it is the chief ingredient. If second ingredient is oil and third is sugar that means that thing is definitely not low calorie! So it is imperative that you always look at first three ingredients of any food item that claim to be healthy!
3. Declaration regarding vegetarian/ non-vegetarian food
4. Nutritional information of the product:
in this section, you can look for 3 major components-
a) Serving size: first thing you should look at is “Serving Size/Portion Size” and how many servings that pack contains(e.g. for most biscuits -serving size is 4 biscuits and a pack might contain 20 servings) This is a very important point as sometimes the nutritional information is given for 1 serving and sometimes it is given for 100gm. Always check.
b) Calories: after judging the portion size, you look at how much of energy that product contains per serving. This way you can actually figure out how many calories you are getting from eating a certain portion of that food.
c) Limit: limit intake of – sugar, salt, fat. look for sugar, cholesterol, trans fat compare their values with other products to make better choice.
5. Declaration regarding food additives and allergens:
The presence of any food additives or colours or flavours used in the food is mentioned on the label. In addition, the presence of allergens, if any, enables you to avoid the consumption to foods you are allergic to.Example: contains gluten.
6. Date of manufacturing or packaging:
The label gives information on the date, month and year in which the food was manufactured.
7. Best before and use by date:
Best before date gives the month and year in which the product is best for the consumption.
8. Instructions for use:
Instructions for use, including modification, where applicable, is given on the label, if necessary, to ensure correct utilization of the food.
People often get carried away with products that claim to be high in protein, free of cholesterol, less of sugar and so on. But have you ever thought how less is less?? Or how high is high?? Or is free really free?
Here is a guide that will help you while shopping for package foods (given by FDA)
Mubashira is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a Dietitian with specialization in Clinical and more specifically Renal Nutrition. She also has a certification in nutrition and exercise for fitness. Having addressed issues like weight management, diabetes management, and lifestyle disorders, her health mantra is “encourage healthy eating and conscious well being for better living!”