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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Reading Food Labels

Guide To Reading Food Labels And Nutritional Information

Reading food labels is the primary duty of a consumer. Food labels contain information regarding the manufacturer’s name and address, serving size, common name of the product, ingredients list, nutrients list and measure or weight of the product. Nutrient content, in terms of, ‘fat-rich’, ‘high fiber’ or ‘high protein’ food is mentioned. Food labels are simple, distinct and easy to understand, enabling the consumers to make healthy choices in their diet. The amount of fat, with respect to saturated fat and cholesterol is provided.

Nutrition information, in the form of health concerned nutrients, such as dietary fiber and other nutrients are obtainable.
A nutrient reference value which is beneficial to the customers in the way it fits into a diet is also available, as percentage daily value. Details regarding the percentage or quantity of juice in a drink are given. The nutrition facts label provides an insight about the inherent nutrients in the food. It is seen on the outside of the packed foods and is easy to trace.  Fresh foods also provide this information to a certain extent. Nutrients are expressed in terms of grams (g). Few of them are denoted as milligrams (mg). Percentage (%) is another way of expressing nutrients. Serving size is mentioned in numbers or cup sizes. This enables people to keep a check on their eating quantity. The number of servings per container is also mentioned, showing the duration of the contents.

Percent daily values of potassium, sodium, other minerals and vitamins, protein, fat and carbohydrates are available. Fat is available as unsaturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat and saturated fat. Cholesterol and sodium are expressed in terms of milligrams and proves helpful for those on a fat or sodium restricted diet respectively. 'Light' or 'Lite' foods are those that are reduced in calories, sodium and fat to a significant extent. Such products assure fat content decreased by 50%, one-third of the calories are reduced or reduction in sodium content by around 50%.

Important Terms And Their Meanings For Food Labels

'Low fat'- Equal to or less than 3 grams of total fat (with respect to a reference quantity)
'Fat-free'- With a reduction of 0.5 grams of total fat (with respect to a reference quantity)
'Reduced sugar'- About 25% less sugar with respect to reference food
'Sugar-free'- provides less than 0.5 grams per serving
'No added sugar'- Neither sugar nor are substitutes present
'Low-cholesterol'- Equal to or less than 20 mg of cholesterol (with respect to a reference quantity)
'Cholesterol-free'- Less than 2 mg of cholesterol (with respect to a reference quantity)
'Calorie-free'- A reduced amount of 5 calories per serving
'High fiber'- Equal to or greater than 5 gm per serving

The shelf life of the product is indicated by the expiry or ‘best before’ date. This information is especially essential for perishable foods. The date of manufacture is also indispensable. When made proper use of, food labels are very informative, providing knowledge to the consumers.
Submitted on January 16, 2014