When you become more conscious about your eating choices, you will find yourself curious about what exactly you’re consuming. You should get into the habit of reading the food label on the back of a food packet before you buy it. The food label gives you all the information about the food – if you just know how to interpret it!
Here are a few important things you should know about the food label:
- The Food Code requires that the ingredients in a food should be listed in descending order by weight. So the first item in the list of ingredients is the one used most to create the food. For instance, if sugar is the first item that would mean that the food consists mainly of sugar.
- The list of ingredients also includes the source of fats and oils. However, some labels try to gloss over the issue by simply mentioning animal fats or coconut milk – you should avoid foods with such labels.
- Always take note of the “expiry date” or “best before” on the labels. This is especially true if the food is on sale – many supermarkets tend to put foods on sale when they approach their expiry dates.
Manufacturers generally try to promote their food as being very healthy. However, this may not always be the case – for instance, “lite” may mean light in texture, not in calories. Here are some tips to understand such jargon:
- Low: Foods with this label can be eaten more frequently. Low fat means 3 g or less per serving; low-sodium means 140 mg or less per serving and low-calorie means 40 calories or less per serving.
- High: Foods with this label contain 20 percent or more of the Daily Value recommended. Generally manufacturers will emphasize that a food is high in required nutrients.
- Free: Foods with this label contain a trivial amount or absolutely zero percent of the nutrient being discussed. For instance, a sugar free food contains zero sugars.
- Reduced: Foods with this label have been modified so that the amount of nutrients or calories is at least 25% less than normal.
- Good Source: Foods with this label contain 10 to 20 percent more than the daily recommended value of a particular nutrient.
- Lean: Foods with this label contain less than 10 g of fat, 4.5g of saturated fat, and 95 mg of cholesterol per serving.
As you can see, food labels can be quite complex. However, it’s worthwhile to spend some time when grocery shopping to understand the underlying composition of the food you’re buying. This way, when you’re at home and hungry, you don’t need to worry about whether the food you’re eating is healthy enough.
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