4 Tips on How and Why to Read Your Food Labels
Let’s start the New Year with thinking about our food and what you consume. Which, as we all know, has a great influence on our body and lifestyle. Are you one of the many who have made a New Year Resolution to Diet and lose some extra kilo’s? – be Honest Did You?
We know this will take some work and commitment on your part!
Now we know you cannot measure every single morsel that passes your lips, it would drive you insane, but it is a good idea to be aware of what you eat.
You can make a start by measuring the foods and beverages you eat and drink (if you can) until you get a feel for their actual portion sizes.
It is a supersized world out there and most people are surprised to find that their idea of a single serving is equivalent to two or three normal serves. So beware.
If you are into the bells and whistles of food preparation then there are food scales that are pre-programmed with nutritional information, as well as scales that will keep a running total of your daily food and nutrient intake for you.
The only tools you really need, however, are a simple and inexpensive gram scale, dry and liquid measuring cups and idea on how to read packaging food labels. Easy, or you could just use pen and paper. Use whatever you are comfortable with. As long as you do something.
Among all the above-mentioned tools, reading food labels seems to be the most effective way of determining the right kind and type of food you should buy in the supermarket. It helps you make sensible food selections.
Through the “Nutrition Facts” section printed on every packaged product in the grocery aisle, you can identify the Amount of Serving Sizes provided in that product and the actual contents.
With food labels, you can clearly understand the amount and kinds of nutrients that are provided in the item. Usually, it contains information on;
- saturated fat,
- total fat,
- and cholesterol amount
- plus in some cases other items “per serving.”
However, understanding and reading these food labels can be very perplexing.
What you do generally see is a list of confusing Numbers.
A typical consumer should ask themselves what those numbers really mean and how is it going to affect your diet intake and body if you religiously follow the serving guide as stated on the food label. To have a clear and a more comprehensive understanding of the items written in the food label, here is a list of things that you need to know:
What those numbers really mean?
The Number 1 and biggest challenge: those pesky numbers! There are so many of them and I see you ask yourself what is ! what the !
I have included a brief description of these numbers below as a partial explanation:-
200 to 299: Preservatives. These prevent the growth of microbes in food that might make us sick. E220, for example, is sulphur dioxide, a preservative commonly used in wine to stop acetic acid bacteria from turning the wine into vinegar.100 to 199: Food colouring. Saffron is “food colour 164” in Australia (or E164 in Europe). Other spices commonly used to add colour to foods include turmeric (E100) and paprika (E160c).
300 to 399: Antioxidants. Vitamin C (E300) falls into this category.
400 to 499: Thickeners, emulsifiers and stabilisers. Thickeners are commonly used in soups or sauces. Emulsifiers help keep oily substances and watery substances mixed, such as mayonnaise. Without emulsifiers, the oily and watery part can separate, as seen with vinaigrettes.
500 to 599: Acidity regulators and anti-caking agents. Sodium bicarbonate (E500), commonly known as baking soda or bicarb soda, regulates acidity.
600 to 699: Flavour enhancers, including monosodium glutamate (E621) or MSG.
700 to 999: Sweeteners, foaming agents and the gases used to package foods, such as nitrogen gas (E941). This is used in most potato chip packaging, as it stops them from oxidising.
Many E numbers are naturally occurring substances, such as vitamin B1 (E101) and even oxygen (E948).
Study more to become fluent in food additive Numbers.
- Serving size
This is the primary item you will see in a food label. How many people will this serve?
The amount of servings stated in the food label refers to the quantity of food people usually consume. However, this does not necessarily mean that it reflects your own personal amount of food intake.
Moreover, serving size determines the amount of nutrients that enters the body. This means that if you follow strictly what the serving size is, you will obtain the same amount of nutrients according to the serving size that was given in the label.
For instance, if the serving size says one serving size is equal to 54 grams, that would mean you have to measure 54 grams and eat it all and you have just eaten one serving.
So, the amount of nutrients stated in the food label is the same amount that has entered your body because you have just eaten 54 grams.
However, if you have eaten everything, and the food label says that each pack is equivalent to 4 servings, you need to calculate the amount of nutrients that have entered your body.
This means that if the food label says 250 calories per serving that means you need to multiply it by four to get the total amount of calories you have taken.
This refers to the list of available nutrients in an item. It is also where the nutritional claims of the product based on the recommended daily dietary allowance are stated.
Usually, the nutritional amounts are based on both the 2,500-calorie diets and the 2,000 recommended daily dietary allowances.
In order to understand the numeric value of each item, you should know that the “% daily value” that the food label indicates is based on how a particular food corresponds to the recommended daily dietary allowance for a 2,000 calorie.
If in the event that you have purchased an item that has a dietary allowance different from the 2,000-calorie diet, you just have to divide the stipulated amount by 2,000 and you will be able to identify the “%daily value” for the nutrients.
This refers to the list of the ingredients that were used to manufacture the product. The listing is usually arranged from the main ingredients that have the greater amount by weight, up to the smallest quantity.
This simply means that the actual quantity of the food includes the biggest quantity of the main ingredient for the first item and the minimum amount of the very last ingredient.
- Label claim
This refers to the kinds of nutritional claims of a food item. For instance, if an item says it is sodium-free, it means it has less than 5 milligrams per serving, or a low fat item actually contains 3 grams of fat or less.
Indeed, reading food labels can be very tedious and confusing. Nevertheless, once you get the hang of it, it is easier for you to watch your diet, weight and health because you control the amount of food that you take. Your life is in your Hands.
Hope this is enough to tempt you to try, succeed and fulfil you New Years Resolution.
In Wellness, Kim at Beautifully Well Box.