Very few of us pay attention to the nutrition fact labels on the packaged food we buy. We mostly consider brands or cost before making food purchases. However, these labels provide valuable information which is essential for making healthy eating choices.
Nutrition labels are found mainly at the back of packaged foods and beverages. Food manufacturers are obliged by the law to provide information on the nutritional contents of their products. And there is a lot you can draw from the nutrition labels.
How to read nutrition labels
To most, these labels look incredibly complex. It might explain the reason why so few take time to go through them. Here is how I interprete them in a minute:
At the top of the nutrition facts is the serving size of the food package. It is the amount contained in the container. It helps you to understand the number of people the contents of the pack serve.
Next are the ingredients. These ingredients are representative of one serving. It is very critical to understand your ingredients. For example, if there are 300 calories, with a serving of 2.5. It essentially means there are 750 calories in the entire bag. (300 X 2.5).
Next, you will get the fats. The indicated quantity is a summation of the number of fats by mass in the food. The list will mainly just include saturated fats and trans-fats. The reason is that the others are considered healthy and hence not listed.
Onwards you will get the cholesterol and sodium. Remember that these amounts are indicative of one serving.
Then, there are the carbohydrates. Here, what you should watch out for is the sugar content. The food should also have a high content of dry fiber.
Next are the proteins. The right amount of proteins in the diet is essential for general body wellness and buildup of lean muscle tissues.
Finally, the vitamins. In most cases, these amounts are meager, and you shouldn't rely on them as your source of vitamins. Take lots of vegetables and fruits daily to meet your vegetable requirements.
Why Should You Read the Food Label Before Buying?
Part of a healthy lifestyle is in the food we eat. It rests on us to be aware of what we are ingesting. Nutrition facts work to inform us of the food's contents and quality.
Nutrition labels provide you with information on what you're eating. Physically, you might not tell the contents of what you're taking. As such, the only indicator of what is in the food is the label.
Nutrition fact labels help in making informed decisions on what food to buy. For example, when you come across food with high amounts of sugar, then you know it's not a good choice if you're trying to lose weight. Information on the number of calories per servings is equally critical. Taking more calories than you need means that the excess gets stored as fat.
For people who are allergic to some ingredients. In such cases, informed decisions on what food one is taking are at times a matter of life and death. Always read the food label.
To confirm the pack meets cultural and religious standards. Food is a critical part of our cultures and for some, our religion. As a result, we have products that we don't take. The front of the package might not reveal all the ingredients. For this reason, the label is your answer. All the ingredients in the food will be listed here for your reference.
Finally, to know the resulting food quantity after cooking. In situations where you intend to serve more than one person, the number of servings per pack is essential.
Important Things to Look for in Nutrition Labels
Obviously, look out for food ingredients that you're trying to avoid. Whether on religious grounds, allergies, or sensitivities, look closely at the food labels for signs of these foods or ingredients.
If you're health concious, look for foods with high fiber content and less sugar. These are foods like whole wheat, whole oat, brown rice, etc. Most products have their contents listed down in descending order by weight. Ensure the ingredients you don't like in your diet are further down the list.
Another consideration is the fat content. At this point, let me make it clear that not all fats are harmful. In fact, having some proportions of healthy fats in the diet is essential. What you should watch out for, are the trans-fats. These are fats formed via hydrogenation of oils. They are meant to increase the shelf-life and stability of flavors in foods. Trans-fats inhibit the body's cholesterol control and cause Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).
Buying quality food with regards to nutrition is tricky. Hopefully, this piece has helped you get a few facts in order. Remember, it is not the brand, the packaging. or fancy names. The key to purchasing the right food is in having a look at its nutritional content.
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash