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 latest laws and regulations in the food industry. The label must clearly show the energy / calories in kcal/kj, 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.
* Η αρχική ετικέτα δημιουργήθηκε από το Nutritics (Nutrition Analysis Software)
2. Reference Intake (RI) or Percentages (%)
The table percentages show the percentage % based on the recommended intake (RI) and give us information regarding the energy and nutrients included in the foods we consume. For instance, if a percentage for a macro or micronutrient in a meal is 50% RI, this means that you should be careful with your remaining meals of the day. It’s very important to consume foods low in total fats, saturated fats, sugars and salt and it is best not to go over the 100% mark. Of course, we try to consume foods which contain protein and dietary fibers. You should be aware that the nutritional charts refer to the average person who consumes 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 should consume daily, so that you can adjust these quantities according to your personal 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 a serving or less than a serving!
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 it is possible for them to cause your body various health issues. 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. Opt for foods that don’t contain any processed sugar. You can check for processed sugar on the food labels.
5. Check the allergens
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 concern the average person who consumes 2000/per day. Every person is different, so this differs from person to person, according to age, gender, physical activity, heredity 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 the Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.
* The website akispetretzikis.com offers as a service a variety of blogs and articles, based on scientific sources. All the articles are provided as general information and no text should be used as a substitute for advice from a physician or another health scientist, regardless of the date it has been published.