Everyone knows that each product has a nutrition label on it. Have you ever wondered if you can benefit from it? Have you ever really looked at it? Most people may not know that food nutrition labels are found on a packaged product in order to help us make better choices – meaning healthier choices. I see that many people find it hard to understand exactly what each product contains and can’t or don’t read the food labels so they don’t receive the information needed for their own benefit. They don’t choose according to nutrition but probably according to packaging or habit. It may be a little time consuming to read the food labels in such detail… but when it comes to your health, I hope that you feel that it is worth it!! I certainly do! From what I hear, many of you avoid reading the labels, either because you may prefer to choose something that isn’t so healthy and this way you won’t feel guilty when you’re enjoying it!!! But this is exactly the reason why labels are found on the food… so that you can read them and know what you are putting into your body!
The 5 main things you need to read…
1. Food Nutrition Labels
First of all, check that there is a food label on the product, since it is mandatory based on the laws and regulations in the food industry. The label must clearly show the energy / calories in kj / kcal, fats, saturated fats – sometimes it even shows the trans fats, carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, protein and salt. The label should be similar with the label shown below – like a small table on the front or back of the product.
* The initial label was created by Nutritics (Nutrition Analysis Software)
2. Percentages (%)
The percentages show the exact percentage % based on the recommended daily intake (RI or RDI). For instance, if a percentage for a macronutrient in a meal is 50% RI, this means that you should be careful with your remaining meals of the day and the amount of all the other foods consumed. As you can see, it is best not to go over the 100% mark. Or course, nutritional charts are for a healthy person who consumes an average of 2000 kcal a day. This is why it is always good to consult your doctor, dietician or nutritionist and find out exactly how many calories you are supposed to consume daily so that you can adjust these quantities according to your own needs.
3. Calories per serving or per 100 g
This will help you calculate the calories of the whole product you have in front of you, so that you can control the amount you consume. If the servings are also written in detail, then you can understand if you can eat more than one serving or less than one!
4. Check the following!
As we have said before…. Saturated and trans fats, are the “bad” fats. This is why it is best to restrict the consumption of these fats from our diet. The main reason is that they may cause your body various health issues and chronic diseases. Of course, this depends on how often you consume them and what your diet is like in general. Sugars are another part of the label you have to look at… I have spoken about sugars in a previous diary. It is best to restrict sugars from your diet and try not to exceed 5 g of sugars per 100 g of solid food per serving. Opt for foods that don’t contain any processed sugar. You can check for processed sugar on the food labels. Similarly with salt, it's best not to exceed 5 g per day, especially if you suffer from any illnesses.
Apart from all of the information mentioned, food nutrition labels also list all of the ingredients found in the product - in detail; as well as all of the allergens - in detail. They are usually found underneath the nutritional chart and are written in bold black print. This is especially important information for those of you who may have a certain type of allergy or intolerance to a particular food and it can be easily found in this list (or as a symbol, as shown in the chart above)!
It is very important to remember that labels refer to a healthy person who consumes 2000 kcal / per day. Every person is different, so this differs from person to person, according to age, gender, physical activity and many other factors that should be taken into consideration. Take advantage of the fact that all products have these detailed food labels and try to choose wisely or make the best nutritional choices for yourselves!
This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s Sports Nutritionist, Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.