National Nutrition Week 2023: Key Features Of A Nutritional Fact Label
In today's busy world, where choices are abundant and time is limited, understanding food labels has become very important. A quick trip to the supermarket can be overwhelming, with rows of vibrant packaging enticing us. But how do we understand what these tempting packages have in-store for us? This is where the importance of deciphering food labels comes in.
These labels are not just colorful decorations, they hold crucial information about what's inside the package. This information on food labels serves to assist people in making more informed food decisions. The front, back, and sides of a package are filled with information to let us know about the contents of the item and to guide us in selecting healthier choices of processed foods.
Important Points On A Food Label:
Salini Somasundar, who is a Consultant Dietician at Manipal Hospital, Kharadi, Pune, laid down the important points present on a food label.
- Any products we are buying- the first point to be checked is the ingredients list and remain alert for allergens which is included in the product.
- See if the sodium content is high becasue high sodium content may cause changes in blood pressure levels, in electrolytes level.
- Keenly check for approved colours and preservatives in case of products used by children’s, Class I preservatives are preferred over class II
- Look at how many servings you are consuming.
- Fat free doesn't mean zero calorie
Key Features Of A Nutritional Fact Label:
In this regard, Shabana Parveen who is a Clinical Nutritionist at Artemis Hospital, Gurugram shared tips to look for in food labels, to make well informed choices:
- Serving Size: The first step is to identify the serving size which sets the foundation for interpreting other values on the label accurately. Sometimes what seems like a single serving may be divided into smaller portions creating confusion.
- Calorie Count: Next, focus on the calorie count. This gives you an idea of how much energy the food will provide. Be cautious of low-calorie claims; sometimes, these foods are loaded with unhealthy additives.
- Nutrient Breakdown: Look for the nutrient breakdown—fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Opt for foods that are rich in beneficial nutrients and keep an eye on the types of fats.
- Added Sugars: The amount of added sugars is an important aspect, considering their contribution to health issues like obesity and diabetes.
- Fiber Content: Fiber improves digestion and helps control blood sugar levels. So, say yes to high fibre content!
- Sodium Levels: Excess sodium can cause hypertension. Compare sodium content across similar products and choose the one with lower levels.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Some labels list essential vitamins and minerals. But remember that a balanced diet is more effective than relying just on fortified foods.
- Ingredient List: Ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity. So, if sugars or unhealthy fats are at the top, it's best to avoid.
- Claims and Labels: Labels like "organic," "gluten-free," or "natural" can be misleading. Try to understand what they truly mean.
- Expiration Dates: Lastly, check expiration dates. Consuming food past its expiry date can be unsafe and might lead to foodborne illnesses.
Things To Keep In Mind While Shopping For Kids Or Pregnant Women:
In this regard, Fareesa Fatima, Senior Clinical Nutritionist, Fernandez Hospital said, "When shopping for kids and during pregnancy in supermarkets, focus on foods rich in nutrients." She further went on to list down the important things to check on the food labels:
- Check the nutrition labels for information on calories, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Look out for whole foods and minimally processed options for the best health benefits.
- Opt for Fresh & Local, 'Whole Grain', 'Low-Fat Dairy', 'Natural Sweeteners' instead of 'refined sugars', 'Fortified with Calcium, Folate and Iron', 'Natural Ingredients', 'No Added Preservatives'.
- When looking at nutrition labels for children's foods, 'high fat, salt and sugar - HFSS' content can be a concern.
- Look for products with 5% or less of the '% DV' of fat, salt, sugar This is a good choice for kids.
- Pay attention to serving size, especially for snacks and packaged foods as overeating can be a concern during pregnancy and kids.
- Make sure products at the supermarket are stored and displayed at appropriate temperatures to prevent foodborne illnesses.
- Outer aisles of the supermarket typically contain fresh produce, dairy, lean proteins, and whole grains. Focus on these areas to find healthier options