According to the FDA, all packaged foods must have food labels on them. So how exactly does it help?
A food label displays the macro and micronutrients—such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals—contained in a packaged food item, along with their weights. A list of ingredients, allergens, and expiry dates should also be listed in it.
It also includes the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of each nutrient, which shows how much of your daily recommended intake of those nutrients is satisfied by a single pack of the product. Food labels also show the number of calories and the recommended serving size. Usually, the information is listed for the serving size as well as for the entire pack.
All of this information can help you make informed choices about your diet. Here’s how you can benefit from reading food labels before you make a purchase.
1. Manage your Calorie Intake
Getting fitter can be as simple as watching what you eat. Although the practice of clean labeling originated from the idea of eating food that’s prepared from minimal, wholesome ingredients with very few processing steps, certain food companies use clean labels to hide undesirable ingredients and highlight positive words such as “healthy,” “organic,” “natural,” etc.
Don’t be fooled by such terms—turn the package over and read the food label. The serving size will tell you how much of the food item you should eat in a day and how many calories each serving has. This will help you track your daily calorie intake.
2. Make Better Dietary Choices
With the increase in processed food, Americans are, no doubt, eating too much sodium, sugar, carbohydrates, and fats. We are also not eating enough fiber.
Often, a clean label may have you believe you are buying the best brand in the market, but a food label gives you a better picture of what’s in that package. You may be surprised at the amount of high fructose corn syrup savory foods can have.
Read the labels carefully and choose products that actually use clean label ingredients with no additives, low sodium, no corn syrup, and high dietary fiber.
3. Plan Meals to Control Chronic Conditions
Millions of people suffer from food allergies, heart diseases, gut diseases, diabetes, and high blood pressure. These can get exacerbated or triggered by a variety of food items.
Reading food labels carefully will help you identify ingredients that may be harmful to you or your family—even if the package hypes all its clean-label ingredients. Armed with the information on food labels, you can prepare healthier meals for your family. Eating better will help prevent flare-ups, especially if you have food-related conditions.
Keep your health goals in mind to make the most of the information on food labels. If your goal is to manage blood pressure, the sodium information on food labels will tell you which foods to buy (or avoid) and help you track and reduce your daily sodium intake.
Serving size information is very useful, as eating anything in excess is harmful. You can enjoy your favorite processed snacks once in a while, as long as you are not exceeding the recommended serving size.
So the next time you go grocery shopping, remember to carefully inspect the food labels on the items you pick. This will go a long way toward improving your health and overall well-being.
Featured Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash