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World Food Safety Day: Why and how you should learn to read food labels

When you check food labels, you can also compare the nutrient content of all the different options available to you. @Shutterstock

On the second World Food Safety Day today, you must take a pledge to go through the nutritional labels that come with each and every ready-to-eat, heat-and-serve or pre-packaged meals.

Because of the pressures of modern life, many people put food and meal-planning on a backseat. Most of the time, you may be substituting a home-cooked meal for something pre-packaged or ready-to-eat. So, it is important to read the nutritional label to know what you are eating. On the second World Food Safety Day today, you must take a pledge to go through the nutritional labels that come with each and every ready-to-eat, heat-and-serve or pre-packaged meals. Doing so will give you a fair idea of what exactly you are going to put on your plate. But for this you have to know how to read the label correctly. First observed in 2019, World Food Safety Day seeks to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

All packaged foods have a nutrition label that provides information on what exactly you're getting. This makes it easier for you to make healthier choices. When you check food labels, you can also compare the nutrient content of all the different options available to you.

IMPORTANCE OF FOOD LABELS

The nutrition label provides key information such as serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrate and vitamin content. The label also contains a list of the ingredients. This information helps you stay on track with your daily targets. It also helps you avoid certain ingredients if you have a food intolerance or are following a diet that excludes certain components, such as dairy.

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BOOST YOUR HEALTH BY CHOOSING RIGHT

Your nutrition goals must determine what food you buy. Read the label so that you can make the best choice. If you're obese, compare the calorie content of various options and choose a low-calorie, nutritious item. The information on serving size is also helpful here. Another example is if you have a chronic condition. For instance, if you have high blood pressure, it's crucial to pay attention to the sodium content.

BE WARY OF MISLEADING CLAIMS

Study the ingredients list carefully because some labels can be misleading. Usually, ingredients are listed by quantity from the highest to lowest amount. So read the first three ingredients and if it says refined grains, sugar or hydrogenated oils, stay away from it. This product will be unhealthy. If the ingredients list is longer than usual, the product may be highly processed. Low sugar, low fat, multi-grain, low-calorie and natural are some other claims that you need to be wary of as it may mean that they are using some unhealthy alternative.

KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR

For a novice, reading food labels can get very confusing. So, here, we guide you on how to read nutritional labels correctly and what information it provides.

Serving Size

This is important. When you pick up a package, be sure to check how many people can eat out of it. One serving means how much you will eat at one time. If you eat food equivalent to 2 servings, then you will have to calculate the rest of the nutritional label by doubling everything.

Calorie Count

This is important especially if you are on a weight loss mission. You will come across terms like low calorie, low cholesterol, reduced, calorie free fat-free, etc. Low calorie means 40 calories per serving and calorie-free actually means less than 5 calories per serving. Some terms can be misleading, and you need to know exactly what it means to make an informed choice.

Look For Additives

All packaged food come with additives, which may not be good for health. So try to go for one that says no or less saturated fat, sugars and sodium. This will reduce your risk of many chronic ailments. Also check to see if there are any added vitamins, minerals and fiber. Many packaged foods now come fortified with nutrients. It will be mentioned in the nutritional label.

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