The Importance of Reading and Understanding Food Labels

We go to grocery stores to buy our monthly groceries. We pick up all the things we need and want and consume without thinking much about its beneficial factors. Many at times, we pick up a lot of packed and processed foods that may or may not be good for us. We get tempted to pick up junk such as chips and packed snacks. Do you just pick it up without thinking about the nutrients it contains? This is when you must turn to the back of your packed and processed food and read the small black and white box which contains information about what the product. These are called ‘Nutritional Facts Label’ or, in simpler terms, ‘Food Label’.

What exactly is a food label? Well, they are mandatory nutritional information that has to be placed on all packed and processed food that are sold in supermarkets. They appear at the back of all packed food. These food labels tell us about the quantities of macro and micro nutrients that are present in the food that we are buying. It also gives information about the calorie count, fats, sugar, protein, salt, and various minerals and vitamins. Every country has their own food safety and labeling regulations. Food labels in India have the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) that has made it mandatory to have these nutritional facts at the back of all our packaged food.

These facts can be very confusing, as most of us do not have an understanding for it. Here are a few pointers to help you understand it.

Serving Size and Number of Serving

This generally represents the recommended serving size for an average individual and the number of serving tells us how many servings are there in a box. Sometimes the number of servings are not mentioned but the nutritional information for about 100 grams is given so you can calculate according to the total weight of the box.

Total Calories

This is simple to understand, this tells us the amount of calorie it contains in a single serving. Sometimes they are subdivided further into various fats. All your calorie does not come from fat alone so if you are on a low carb diet, look for these details.

Macros and Micros

These are the macronutrients and micronutrients that are contained in a single serving. It is recommended to limit the items such as saturated fats, added sugars and sodium and increase the intake of items such as vitamins, minerals and fibers.

Added Sugars

The food generally mentions the total amount of sugar that is present. To know the details about the added sugars in your food you must read the Ingredients List. Stay clear of these added sugars. A few of the added sugars are: ‘high fructose corn syrup’, ‘corn syrup’, ‘maple syrup’, fruit juice concentrate’, etc.

Daily Value Percentage

This usually tells you the amount of a certain nutrient present, as compared to the total daily requirement for that nutrient for an average individual with a 2000 calorie diet.

Ingredients List

Another major section of food labelling in India is the ingredients list. The list contains the entire composition of your product. The order of the ingredients also shows which ingredient it is mainly contained of. It is usually put in the decreasing order of its composition.

Information regarding Food Additives, Preservatives and Colors

FSSAI has made it mandatory to mention such details about the product along with the nutritional information facts. It is obvious that foods that contain high amounts of additives and color must be avoided at all costs.

Veg and Non-Veg Symbols

This would help you indicate whether any animal products are used or not. A green dot in a green box indicates a pure vegetarian product whereas a red dot in a red box indicates a non-vegetarian product. This is made compulsory by FSSAI to be display on all packages.

These pointers could help you understand what goes into making the packaged and processed foods that you eat. Don’t always get attracted to the fancy box packaging that you see at grocery stores. This is a choice that we all have to start making to have a healthy lifestyle and food labels help us understand these products better. Choose wisely and live healthy!


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