Checking food labels is essential. Som read further to get some tips in reading those hard-to-interpret terms.
In this world where marketing techniques overlap honesty, we should be equipped with the right knowledge so we won’t be deceived. We should be aware that the food labels are not-so-truthful.
So here are some tips for a better understanding of labels:
Parts of the Nutrition Facts
It’s essential for us to know the parts of the nutrition facts of every packaging. Knowing this will help us decide what brand is better.
1. Serving Information
This is not the recommended amount of servings. That is the typical servings that people usually consume and this corresponds to the other parts of the nutrition facts.
This is the amount of energy present per serving. Yes, not by the whole package but by the serving. As a reference to the picture, if you ate 1 1/2 cup of the food, you already consumed 240 calories.
Watching calories is essential for maintaining weight because unburned calories will become fat. You can use My Plate Plan in helping you to estimate the calories present in every food.
This part shows the key nutrients packed in every serving of the food. This is usually in grams. You can always use that part to supplement your dietary needs and to compute for your limit if you are watching your weight.
4. Percentage of Daily Value
The percentage of daily value is the guide to the nutrients per serving of food.
In reference to the picture above, the label shows 20% calcium. That means one serving provides 20% of your daily calcium needs. This is already computed based on the 2000-calorie diet for a healthy adult following an international standard.
Note: There are certain products that provide dual-column nutrition facts. This is only to explain and compare how many calories and nutrients one will get if he/she consumes “per serving” or “per package”.
What are the Sugar Names?
Unbelievable as it may seem but there are actually more than 50 sugar names and some of them are disturbingly invented by companies as part of their marketing pitch. They are made to conceal the amount of sugar present in food.
Here is an infographic alphabetizing the names of sugar:
If you are a weight watcher, it’s best to compute the amount or percent of sugar in every serving.
For example, in the nutrition facts of the picture, there’s a total of 6 grams of sugar. To compute for the total percent of sugar per serving, divide it by the total grams of carbohydrates, which is 46 (6/46=.1304). Then, move the decimal by multiplying the quotient to 100 (0.1301 x 100 = 13.01%).
Did you know that the most popular kiddie chocolate drink contains 40% sugar?
What the Fat?
Fat is a great source of energy and can be the best catalyst in absorbing nutrients for a healthier you. However, there is a considerable amount of fat needed by the body.
There are types of fats — unsaturated, saturated, and transfat.
Unsaturated fats are considered good fats because they are proven to lower blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, and other beneficial roles. They are usually plant-based oil like avocado, olive, canola, almond, and many more.
Trans fats are the evil ones because they increase the risk of diseases even in small amounts. They are made by heating vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas and a catalyst.
To avoid trans fat watch out for the terms “partially hydrogenated oil,” “hydrogenated vegetable oil,” or “shortening.”
Saturated fats are not considered harmful. However, they are best consumed in moderation. Foods like meat, cheese, and ice cream as well as plant-based fats like coconut and palm oil are high in saturated fats.
If you are under a ketogenic diet it’s good to consume a large amount of unsaturated and saturated fats. However, if it’s the other way around, check the label.
Other Label Terms
Here are some terms that we need to know in checking food labels:
- There are some companies that use the term “reduced” to rebrand a certain product that is tagged unhealthy. Don’t be deceived, because many of them contain reduced ingredients but remained unhealthy.
- “No added sugar” is coined to eliminate calories from carbohydrates. There is no sugar indeed but substitute like aspartame and xylitol are used. Such ingredients may also pose health problems.
- The term “natural” or “all-natural” doesn’t necessarily mean organic. The terms are actually not regulated, meaning companies can stick to whenever they want. Instead, look for the term “USDA-certified organic.”
- “Made with real fruits” is not always 100% fruit. This term is widely used for artificial beverages added with a small amount of fruit juice. Much better, stick to real fruits.
Always Check the Labels
Products are meant to be sold, it’s a fact. So, whether we believe it or not, many companies will do their best to protect the company’s interest. By having yourself equipped with the right knowledge in reading the labels, you’ll protect yourself as well.