HOW TO READ FOOD LABELS
When shopping for groceries and planning your meals and snacks, you will be faced with many food choices. There is so much variety available in stores and it can be confusing choosing what to buy while on-the-go.
Food labels are a valuable tool to guide us in making the best choice. It is important to be able to understand what is written on a food label. When comparing foods, always look at the nutritional content per 100 g. The serving size is also important to look at as this is the recommended amount that you should have in one sitting.
Health claims like “low in fat” and “fat free” displayed on packaged foods may lead you to believe that these products are great choices, however these foods are often loaded with fillers like sugar and carbohydrates to improve taste and texture.
The ingredient list displays quantities of ingredients from the highest to the lowest amount. The closer “sugar” is to the top of the ingredient list, the higher the sugar content. Sugar is sometimes listed using other words: cane sugar, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, syrup, honey, galactose, lactose, maltose, maltodextrin, rice syrup, corn sweetener and xylitol.
The consumption of excess salt can negatively affect your health as well as result in water retention and bloating. Look out for other names for high salt ingredients: Baking powder, celery salt, garlic salt, meat/yeast extract, monosodium glutamate, (MSG), onion salt, rock salt, sea salt, sodium, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium nitrate/nitrite, stock cubes, vegetable salt.
Avoid food products that have a very long ingredient list of unfamiliar, processed ingredients. Try to choose products with fresh ingredients and minimal additives and preservatives.
Guideline to understanding food labels:
Nutrient (per 100 g)Best choice
Saturated fat< 3 g
Total fat <10 g
Sugar <10 g
Food labels are designed to help you and guide you. Use them to your advantage when shopping for groceries or selecting meals or snacks.