Published By: Rinks

5 things that you need to know about food labels that can help you comprehend them better

Unlock the secrets of healthy eating by mastering food labels with these essential tips for smarter shopping and better nutrition.

In today's world of processed foods and hidden ingredients, reading food labels is essential for making informed dietary choices. Understanding food labels can be the key to healthier eating, but it requires knowing what to look for. Here are some crucial things you need to know about food labels to help you comprehend them better and make smarter food choices. Read on!

Understand serving sizes

One of the most important aspects of reading food labels is understanding the serving size. The nutritional information provided on the label is based on this specific amount. Often, the serving size is much smaller than what you might actually consume in one sitting. For example, a bag of chips might list the nutritional information for a serving size of 10 chips, but if you eat 30 chips, you need to multiply all the nutritional values by three. Paying attention to serving sizes helps you accurately gauge your intake of calories, fats, sugars, and other nutrients.

Decode the ingredient list

The ingredient list on a food label reveals what’s actually in the product. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so the first few items are the most prevalent. Look out for hidden sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives. Ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial colours can indicate that a product is highly processed and less healthy. Aim for products with whole, recognizable ingredients and avoid those with long lists of chemicals and additives.

Check for hidden sugars

Many processed foods contain added sugars, often under various names. Common aliases for sugar include sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, and honey. Even natural sweeteners like agave nectar or fruit juice concentrate add to your overall sugar intake. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their added sugar intake to 25 grams per day and men to 36 grams. By scrutinising the sugar content on labels and recognizing its different names, you can better manage your sugar consumption.

Evaluate the types of fats

Not all fats are created equal, and understanding the types of fats in your food is crucial for heart health. Food labels differentiate between saturated fats, trans fats, and unsaturated fats. Saturated and trans fats can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. Look for products low in saturated fats and free from trans fats. On the other hand, unsaturated fats, found in foods like nuts, seeds, and fish, are beneficial and can support heart health. Aim to include more of these healthy fats in your diet.

Be wary of health claims

Food packaging often has claims like sugar-free, low fat, or all natural, which can be misleading. These claims are sometimes used to make a product seem healthier than it actually is. For instance, a product labelled low fat might be high in sugar or sodium to compensate for the reduced fat content. Similarly, all natural doesn’t necessarily mean the product is nutritious or free from unhealthy ingredients. Instead of relying on front-of-package claims, turn to the nutritional facts and ingredient list for the full picture.

Reading food labels is a powerful tool for healthy eating, but it requires a bit of knowledge. Incorporating these practices into your shopping habits will help you walk the aisles with confidence and contribute to a healthier diet. So next time you’re at the grocery store, take a moment to read and understand the labels, your body will thank you!