Food labels aren’t exciting to read, but they help you make healthy food choices for your family. Here’s a quick guide on how to read food labels and what they tell you about the food you’re buying.
The first food labels contained little information. Dietitians explain that first-generation food labels required some foods to display “Special dietary uses” for people with health problems. Usually this was just the calorie and sodium content. Meals were typically home-cooked and made from scratch, so no nutritional information was needed. With the rise of processed foods, people wanted to better understand the foods they were buying. In 1970, in response to consumer requests, the FDA developed a system for labeling food. Food labels have evolved over the years with changes in format and content.
The FDA requires that food labels contain. The National Institutes of Health provides this sample label:
- Portion size
- Total fat
- Saturated fats
- Trans fat
What other information is on food labels?
Package labels also include other information about vitamins, minerals, or other foods that consumers should know.
Sugars they are listed below carbohydrates along with fiber content. Foods like candy, soda, and snacks contain a lot of added sugar. High fiber fruits and vegetables contain only natural sugar.
The label will also list the proteins below the sugars. You need protein to help your immune system, skin, muscles, and hair stay healthy. Dietitians say you should eat approximately 46% to 56% protein everyday. High protein foods include:
- Cow meat
- Nuts and seeds
Vitamins A and C
Vitamins A and C should be on food labels. The amount of these vitamins per serving is indicated as a percentage of the daily requirement for the vitamin. This is based on a 2000 calorie diet. Vitamin C is found in citrus foods, strawberries, blackberries, potatoes, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Carrots, squash, dark green leafy vegetables, and all orange vegetables contain vitamin A.
Read food labels
Where do you start when reading a food label? Although there is no right or wrong way to read a food label, it helps to start at the top and work your way down.
1 – Calories
First, starting at the top of the label, check the serving size and number of servings per package and calories per serving. Compare how much you eat to the indicated serving size. So, for example, on the label above, you see that one cup has 260 calories. If you consume two cups, then you are eating 520 calories plus more fat and whatever other ingredients are listed on the label.
2 -% Daily Values
Next, look at the percentage of your daily food values. The daily values on a food label are the nutrients needed to eat an average of 2,000 calories a day. The recommended daily calories depend on your BMI, age, height, gender, weight, and activity level. If you are curious about how many calories you should eat every day, check out this calorie calculator to help you. The list of daily values will be a percentage of your total calories.
3 – Fats
Bad Fats: You should aim to eat low in fat. Saturated and trans fats they are considered unhealthy. These include:
- Beef fat
- Pork fat
Try to avoid eating foods with these types of fats like these:
- Fatty meats and skin of meats
- High fat milk
- Ice cream
- Sour cream
- Tropical oils like coconut, palm, and cocoa butter
- Fried foods: French fries, fried meats, and other fried foods
- Snacks like potato chips, microwave popcorn, and crackers
Eating a lot of saturated and trans fats will increase your cholesterol levels.
Eat foods with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. These good fats are liquid when they are at room temperature. Foods with healthy fats include the following selections:
- Vegetable oils like olive or canola
- Peanut butter
- Flax seeds
- chia seeds
4 – Carbohydrates
Try to eat whole wheat carbohydrates that are high in fiber, such as quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, or whole wheat pasta.
5 – Low cholesterol
Choose foods low in cholesterol. This choice improves heart health, according to nutritionists and multiple studies.
6 – Vitamins and Minerals
Get enough potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and iron. Try to eat lots of foods with a high percentage of daily value of these, such as fruits and vegetables.
Food ingredients do not appear on food labels, but they do appear somewhere on the package. Ingredients are listed from highest to lowest based on weight. If one ingredient is at the top of the list, there is more in the food. So if you’re trying to avoid sugar and it’s at the top of the ingredient list, then the food is probably not for you.
Do you need to read all the labels?
If you read all the labels on all the products in the store, you will be there all day. Obviously that’s not an option, so what can you do to understand the nutrition of the food you buy? It is suggested that when you become familiar with food labels, it will be easier to shop. They also suggest that you primarily look at the serving size per container, comparing it to other similar products, and then choose the one with the lowest calories. If you’re watching your sugar or sodium, you’ll want to see how much is in your food. As you study the labels over time, you will begin to remember which products are healthier.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has created an easy-to-use tool. the shopping list to stay within your nutritional goals. They suggest that you divide your food into categories called GO, SLOW, or WHOA. Healthy foods should be on the GO lines, not healthy foods on the SLOW lines, and WHOA foods should be avoided if possible.
What are GO, SLOW or WHOA foods?
GO foods include:
- Low in fat and sugar
- Low in calories
- Rich in nutrients: vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
- Good for you
SLOW foods include:
- Higher in fat
- Higher in sugar
- Something in calories
- It’s okay to eat once in a while
WHOA foods include:
- Higher in sugar and fat
- High in calories
- Low in nutrition
- It is eaten for special occasions such as holidays, but in small portions.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also offers a colorful picture chart, called Ur what you eat, which shows the healthiest foods using the GO, SLOW and WHOA ideas. This would help teach your children the importance of healthy eating, but no matter how old you are, this chart will help you remember to eat healthy.
Weird Food Label Trivia You Should Know About
The concept of a food label seems straightforward enough, but here are some little-known food label trivia you may not have heard.
- If the food is less than 5 calories, the food label will record it as no calories. Examples include fat-free salad dressings, gum, diet soda, matcha, and celery.
- If there is less than 1/2 gram of fat, the food label will say 0 grams.
- The serving size for a maraschino cherry is 1 cherry.
- Serving size on food labels is the amount of food eaten by a person 4 years of age or older. So if the serving size includes 10 cookies on the food label, you’ll want to decide how many cookies your child should eat based on their calorie needs rather than the servings listed.
What does the package say and what does it really mean
What food packaging He says it’s not necessarily what means, medium. Have a look:
- Light: It really means diluted. Check the food label to see if they have added additional sugar.
- Natural: This means that manufacturing worked with something natural at some point during food production. It does not mean that the product is really natural.
- Multigrain: This is not as healthy as it sounds. This only means that there is some grain in this food product, but not necessarily a whole grain.
- Organic: Organic farmers grow food free of chemicals, pesticides, or other harmful ingredients.
- No added sugars: This is another misnomer. A lack of sugar can mean that the food may contain a lot of sugar substitutes. These substitutions are also detrimental.
- Low in fat: Products listed as low-fat often contain additional sugar. Read your food labels.
- Whole grains: If you are looking for real whole foods, look at the ingredients. If whole grains are listed in the first three ingredients, then the food is truly whole. If not, this is not a comprehensive product.
- With fruit flavor: Many processed foods have fruits in their names without using any fruit in their product. They use chemicals to get the flavor of the fruit.
Food labels may not be best-seller, but they help you choose the best foods for you and your family. Read food labels as often as you can, and over time you will remember which products have the lowest fat and sugar content and other healthy ingredients. Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables do not need a label. Buy these products without fear of consuming unhealthy foods. Don’t forget to read the ingredient lists as well. Just remember that the ingredients listed first are heavier. Reading food labels is an easy way to start eating a little healthier this year.