We irresistibly love food, but most of the time we do not put much effort into exploring its nutritional content. All of us have seen the nutrition label etched on the food package, either accidentally or willingly to assess the health risks and benefits of consuming the food product. But whenever we try to read and understand the nutrition facts, we are bewildered and intimidated. Decoding the food nutrition labels of food products we buy is significant and we should include it in our healthy lifestyle routine. Here in this article, I have drafted a step-by-step method of reading food labels to embrace healthier diet choices.
- It is more important to note the serving size since this helps us to evaluate other nutritional values ( if the serving size is 100g but we eat 200g, we should double the values of the fats, calories, and other nutrients mentioned).
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has not standardized the nutrition panel and hence the nutrition facts labeled are usually according to the appropriate serving size that the manufacturer feels is healthy for us (It is best to not exceed the serving size).
- Calorie is a unit of energy that signifies the energy we would attain by consuming one serving of the product.
- Calorie counting is essential for people who want to gain, maintain, or lose weight.
- Eating around 2000 calories a day is usually recommended (But daily calorie recommendation is specifically based on a person’s height, weight, physical activity, metabolism, and hormonal status)
- %daily value is a measure of the nutrients present (based on a 2000 calories diet) on a scale of 0-100%.
- 5% or less is considered low, 15% or more is considered high.
- Aim high in dietary fibers, vitamins, calcium, and iron.
- Aim low in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.
- This value is necessary to easily compare different products so that you can go for a healthier choice of the diet with all the appropriate amount of nutrients you need.
NUTRITION TERMS (for one serving of the food mentioned in the label)
- Source of fiber: At least 2 grams of fiber.
- High source of fiber: At least 4 grams of fiber.
- Very high source of fiber: At least 6 grams of fiber.
- Low fat: Not more than 3 grams of fat.
- Cholesterol-free: Less than 2 mg of cholesterol and also low in saturated fat and trans-fat.
- Sodium free: Not more than 5 mg of sodium.
- Reduced in calories: At least 25% less energy (Calories) than the regular version of the food.
- High Protein: At least 10 to 20g of protein.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
- We should add about 5g to 9g of sodium in our diet if we completely avoid processed food and hence added salt becomes beneficial.
- We should avoid maltitol, a substitute for sugar found in sugar-free products since it causes gastric discomfort. Instead, we can use stevia or sucralose.
- For packaged food products, the longer the ingredient list, the more cautious we should be.
“The longer a packaged food product lasts, the worse it is for you”- Rahul Gopal (co-founder, The Formula)