Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reading of labels – FOOD LABELS
Something scribbled somewhere in the corner, screaming out from the dirt piled on it on the outside of packaged food, usually not hard to find. A tabular consisting of information relating the nutrients present in the food items commonly used …what is it? Have we noticed it, do we really care to check it out.HUH!!!
Recall the time we would yawn when our science teachers, our dieticians’ doctors would tell us the importance of nutrients, eating healthy…etc. But sadly people till date either don’t understand or don’t want to understand these concepts.
Since 1994 food manufacturers have been required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include food labels (or Nutrition Facts labels) on product packaging so that consumers that means ‘us’ have accurate nutritional information about the food we purchase. Spending a few extra minutes in reading the labels can make eating healthy much easier as once you understand the information they provide, you can use food labels as a guide to planning healthier meals and snacks. Food labels are supposed to be on almost all foods, except those that don't provide many nutrients such as coffee, alcohol and spices. The FDA recommends that sellers provide nutritional information on produce, meat, poultry and seafood, but it's strictly voluntary.
Let’s learn some basics for reading a Food Label
Reading Label Lingo The FDA regulates the use of phrases and terms used on the product packaging. Here's a list of common phrases you may see on your food packaging - and what they actually mean.
ü No fat or fat free: Contains less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving
ü Low fat: Contains less than 3 grams of fat per serving
ü Lite: Contains 1/3 the calories or 1/2 the fat per serving of the original version or a similar product
ü No calories or calorie free: Contains less than 5 calories per serving
ü Low calories: Contains 1/3 the calories of the original version or a similar product
ü Sugar free: Contains less than 1/2 gram of sugar per serving
ü Reduced sugar: at least 25% less sugar per serving than the reference food
ü No preservatives added: Contains no added chemicals to preserve the product. Some of these products may contain natural preservatives
ü Low sodium: contains less than 140 mgs of sodium per serving
ü No salt or salt free: Contains less than 5 mgs of sodium per serving
ü High fiber: 5 g or more per serving (Foods making high-fiber claims must meet the definition for low fat, or the level of total fat must appear next to the high-fiber claim)
ü More or added fiber: Contains at least 2.5 g more per serving than the reference food
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Reading a Food LabelUntil you become accustomed to reading food labels, it's easy to become confused. Avoid these common mistakes when reading labels:
A label may say that the food is reduced fat or reduced sodium. That means that the amount of fat or sodium has been reduced by 25% from the original product. It doesn't mean, however, that the food is low in fat or sodium. For example, if a can of soup originally had 1,000 milligrams of sodium, the reduced sodium product would still be a high-sodium food.
Don't confuse the % DV (daily values) for fat with the percentage of calories from fat. If the % DV is 15% that doesn't mean that 15% of the calories comes from fat. Rather, it means that you're using up 15% of all the fat you need for a day with one serving (based on a meal plan of 2,000 calories per day).
Don't make the mistake of assuming that the amount of sugar on a label means that the sugar has been added. For example, milk naturally has sugar, which is called lactose. But that doesn't mean you should stop drinking milk because milk is full of other important nutrients including calcium. What you can do is look at the list of ingredients. If you see the words high-fructose corn syrup or sugar high on the list of ingredients, it probably means refined sugar has been added to the product.
A common mistake people make, forget to check the manufacturing dates on food packs. It is very important to select the food items before their expiry. Get into the habit of checking the expiry dates.
· What's a Footnote? Below the asterisk sign (*) at the bottom of the label, you can see the key nutrients listed .This info is trying to tell you as to how much you should eat, depending on your calorie intake.
With some Nutrition-Facts practice, you'll be able to quickly scan a food label and learn how the food fits into your nutrition and diet for the day.