Food Label: How To Read And Understand Them

Food Labels: How To Read And Understand Them

Do you read food labels? Do you just collect food items from food shelfs and throw them in your basket or cart without reading the label?

During one school protest in one popular tertiary instituion in Nigeria, something remarkable happend.

It is funny, but it is also a lesson to everyone who does not bother to read food labels.

Boys had stormed the street, protesting against lack of water in their hostel.

The intention was to force the school authorities to do something.

Unfortunately, such protests often come as an opportunity to some persons to engage in looting of shops and some other places. This day was not different.

One shop close to the school hostel was open when some students got there.

Some entered and began to pick different things, shouting ‘Aluta’.

One of the young men who has not had breakfast found a shelf with can foods.

He took one, opened it and began to eat.

He had passed the middle of the can when another protester drew his attention to what was on the food label on the can.

‘Food For Bingo’, the bold inscription read.

The vomiting and screaming that followed was something you do not want to imagine.

If he had spent few minutes to read the label, he would have seen it.

Your case may be different because you look at shelfs label before you pick things from them.

However, not reading labels helps you exceed your calories intake per day and leads you on the path of an unhealthy life.

Why Read Labels?

Not reading food labels could help you gain weight unapologetically, but if that is not your desire, why go through that?

Knowing the contents of the food you want to eat and understanding what the writings in the label means are necessary for your health.

We have put together here label-reading skills that will help you make it easier for you to use the Nutrition Facts labels on food items.

Also, this will help you make quick, informed food decisions about a healthy diet.

Food Label Overview

A food label is divided into different sections, depending on the product.

But in all, they contain specific information about the product.

At the topmost part is usually the serving information.

After that, the calorie information and then the nutrition fact which starts from where you find % Daily Value (DV).

However, we have noticed that some food labels are so tiny that most people can’t read them. It is one way to discourage people from reading them.

In such situations, quickly bring out your phone and use the magnifier app, which you should have. Download one from your device’s store if you don’t have it. This is about your health. 

1. The Serving Information

This is the information on which many other things hang.

The calorie, nutritional value are all worked out as regards the serving size.

It is often written in cups then grams (g) in bracket so that you will easily understand it.

However, it is important to know that this serving size is not a recommendation of the quantity you should drink or eat. It just tells you what is in a certain quantity.

2. Calories

Calories are a unique way of expressing the measure of energy you get from a serving of the food.

In the featured image, there are 150 calories in one serving (1/2 cup) of the food item.

If you decide to eat 6 serving of the food item, that will be 3 cups and that will be 150×6 = 900 calories.

Furthermore, it is great to know the calories you consume because your body needs a certain amount of calories daily.

Staying within your calories need helps you maintain a healthy weight. But exceeding it means your have more than needed and that excess will store up as fat.

Basically, Your calorie needs may be higher or lower. It varies, depending on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level.

3. Nutrients Indicated On Food Label

The next part of the food label which you should look at is the nutrients section.

This section of the food label shows you some key nutrients that impact your health.

One benefit of reading this label is that it helps you know if the food would be okay, comparing the figures with your personal dietary needs.

The ideas is to buy foods that contain more of the nutrients you want to get more of and less of the nutrients you may want to limit.

This way, your food helps you stay healthy.

Here are nutrients to get less of

Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Added Sugars. Look out for how much of these the food item has.

Experts recommend that when the DV exceeds 20% it is high and when it is 5% or less, it is low.

As an adult, depending on your dietary needs, you should focus on foods that are high in Dietary Fiber, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium.

4. % Daily Value In Food Label

Again, this is another section of the food label that tells you the amount of nutrient the food contributes to your health.

Every adult has a required daily value for each nutrient. For instance, the World Health Organization recommends that the daily salt intake an adult needs should be less than 5 g (just under a teaspoon) of salt per day (1).

People Also Read: Salt And Weight Gain: See Why You Should Watch It

Other agencies even recommend 1.5 grams of salt and that is about ¼ of a teaspoon per day.

Knowing how much of the nutrients in a food product you need per day mag be a little difficult since you may need to check every item in the food label in line with recommended daily need.

For easy decision while standing in front of a food shelf or in the market, the General Guide to %DV is that 5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low.

On the other hand, 20% DV or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high

We recommend that, more often, you should choose foods that are:

Higher in %DV for Dietary Fiber, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium
Lower in %DV for Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Added Sugars. (2).

If you find this helpful, kindly share with your friends and loved ones to help them know how to read food labels.

Williams Osewezina

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