If you’re the type of person who has always wondered what the big fuss about nutrition labels really is, this one’s for you. Nutrition labels on food packets are a great way to figure the calories and nutrients you’re about to consume. It is also an indicator of the healthiness of a particular food item. Here’s everything you need to know about nutrition labels.
What does a Nutrition Label mean?
Any food item that you pick up has a certain amount of nutritional value. The break-down of these nutrients are mentioned in a tabulated format, named as a Nutrition Label behind each food item that is packaged.
How many servings does the pack contain?
This is with regards to the total weight/quantity and a regular portion size and how many people will it suffice.
What is a serving size? A distinction is made between a portion size as determined by an external agent, such as a food manufacturer, chef, or restaurant, and a 'self-selected portion size' in which an individual has control over the portion in a meal or snack. This does not determine that the person consuming the food is actually following the serving size. Evidence indicates that people consistently eat more food when offered larger portion, package, or tableware sizes rather than smaller size alternatives. But usually the serving size is kept standardised.
Calories per serving
Calories may be written as a whole, but the source is not usually mentioned. In very few packaging you may find the source or division of calories. For eg: if the total calorie is 300 and calories from fat is 160, that means if you have two servings, then you are gaining total 600 calories out of which 220 is from fats. To understand what is too much and too less, here’s a rough reference. This may differ from person to person’s BMI. 40 Calories is low, 100 Calories is moderate while 400 Calories or more is high. Eating too many calories per day is linked to overweight and obesity.
In many packaging, the nutrients are divided into two or more color codes, they are fairly a subtle hint with regards to their importance in the body. For eg, the nutrients that need to be consumed in limit are- fats, cholesterol and sodium. While the ones that are required by the body are dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin b12, vitamin b6, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, carbohydrate, sugar, protein etc.
What Nutrition Labels do not contain?
- Chances of allergy (few labels do have this detail)
- Excessive consumption effect of a certain nutrient
- Portion quantity according to age groups
- Details of artificial flavoring and type of preservatives
Decoding the contents
To sum this informative session out, it is best to be aware of a few facts and myths around the nutritional label.
- Every body has a different dietary need, but everyone needs basic nutrition.
- Food and nutrients need to be consumed according to BMI.
- Fresh foods are far healthier than packaged ones with a long list of nutrients.
- Anything that is healthy can be consumed in excess.
- Superfoods are the best for health.
- Have a variety of food items, even non-locally grown/bred ones.