Decoding the Fine Print – 10-Tips for Understanding Nutritional Food Labels
Decoding the Fine Print – 10-Tips for Understanding Nutritional Food Labels
Dr Bond Suriya
Dr Bond Suriya
General Practitioner

Decoding the Fine Print – 10-Tips for Understanding Nutritional Food Labels

Navigating the supermarket aisles can sometimes feel like walking through a maze, with every food package vying for your attention with bold claims and nutritional promises. Understanding food labels and ingredient lists is crucial to making informed dietary choices that align with your health and wellness goals. Let's arm you with the knowledge to cut through the marketing noise and truly understand what's in your food with these top 10 tips.

  1. Start with the Serving Size

The nutritional information provided is often based on a specific serving size. This can be misleading if the package contains multiple servings, so always check the serving size to accurately gauge how much you're consuming.

  1. Check the Calories

Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of the food. While they're not the sole factor in determining a food's healthfulness, understanding caloric intake is essential for managing weight and energy levels.

  1. Understand the Nutrients

Pay attention to the amounts of macronutrients - fats, carbohydrates, and proteins - as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Aim for foods high in dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and be wary of those high in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.

  1. Decode the Ingredients List

Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This means the first few ingredients are what the product is mostly made of. Look out for whole foods listed at the beginning and be cautious of long lists packed with unfamiliar or artificial ingredients.

  1. Be Sugar-Savvy

Added sugars can appear under many names, including sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, and many others ending in "-ose." The closer to the start of the ingredients list, the higher the sugar content.

  1. Spot the Salt

High sodium levels can be a concern, particularly for blood pressure. Even sweet foods can contain surprising amounts of sodium, so it's always worth checking.

  1. Fat Facts

Differentiate between the types of fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthier choices, found in products like olive oil and avocados. Limit foods high in saturated fats and avoid trans fats altogether.

  1. Look for Allergens

For those with food allergies or intolerances, it's crucial to scrutinize the ingredients list for potential allergens, which should be clearly highlighted on the label.

  1. Understand 'Per 100g'

Comparing foods 'per 100g' can help you make healthier choices by giving a standardized comparison, particularly useful for evaluating the sugar, fat, and sodium content.

  1. Don't Be Fooled by Health Claims

Be wary of health claims on packaging. Terms like "natural," "organic," or "light" can be misleading and don't necessarily mean the product is a healthier choice. Always refer to the nutritional information and ingredients list for the true story.

Mastering the art of reading food labels is a powerful tool in your health and wellness arsenal, enabling you to make choices that truly benefit your nutrition and lifestyle goals. By keeping these top 10 tips in mind, you'll be equipped to navigate the grocery store with confidence, understanding exactly what you're putting into your body and how it aligns with your dietary needs.