When you are out in the supermarket shopping for food products, everything you put in the cart impacts your health. In short, you are actually purchasing your health. Although we put in so-called healthy food, we may be doing quite the opposite. Deciphering food labels in the maze-like supermarket aisles might be likened to solving a complex puzzle. Knowing the hidden meaning behind these labels is essential for the modern guy trying to live a better lifestyle. Hidden information about nutritional value and ingredient integrity can be found beyond serving sizes and calories.
The shiny laminated packaging with claims of natural and healthy food often misleads the public. Here, we curated a checklist for you, so you are never betrayed by the food labels again. Besides, understanding food labels will help you choose the right product for your individual needs. This exploration of food labels—which includes understanding deceptive substances and differentiating between packaging that is filled with buzzwords and actual health benefits—is an essential undertaking for the astute man. Now, gentlemen, let us set out on a mission to inform ourselves about nutrition.
How do I Read Food Labels?
Reading food labels thoroughly will ensure the right products are in your cabinet. Follow the below tips to get the most out of your supermarket shopping.
Ingredients at the back
The labels at the front are purely to attract consumers. Don't let these healthy quotes make you fall into the trap. Always pay attention to the details on the back of the product. That's where all the secrets lie.
To begin with, analyze the top ingredients on the list. The listed ingredients are listed based on their quantities in the product. So, the top three lines themselves are what the product mostly offers for your body. If it contains sugars or saturated fats on top, then you need to put it back.
Serving Size vs. Net Content
Serving size is something most of us are unaware of. And most companies use this to mislead consumers. For instance, consider a packet of chips with labels based on serving size.
The label on the back is relevant to one serving and not the net content of the whole product. So, one may end up consuming the whole packet without understanding that the packet was meant for three servings, but the label was for one serving. Thereby, you end up consuming three times the calories, fats, and so on.
Usually, sugars are not always represented as sugars on the products. Various other terms, like syrups, juice concentrate, maltose, etc., are all sugars. Besides, the aspect of sugar substitutes is also dangerous since they don't guarantee that a healthy option has been used. Besides, professionals suggest 150 kcal of added sugars as the boundary for males.
The 5g/day salt rule
Worldwide, the consumption of salt is mostly higher than average. And this risk only increases with processed foods. According to the World Health Organisation, salt consumption is to be restricted to five grams per day. It is mostly available through our regular meals. So it's advisable to opt for lower salt content.
Saturated and trans fats
Saturated and trans fats are some of the unhealthiest foods you can provide your body with. They have an impact on cardiovascular health. Hence, it's advisable to check out the content of your foods. However, unsaturated fats are suitable for our health, and one may keep them on their green checklist.
The Colour Codes
Some companies use colored labels to give an idea of their quantities. So, this secret tip will help you save a lot of time reading labels. So, simply refer to the colors rather than doing the math.
Green-Low, Amber-Mid, Red-High
Most Confusing Food Labels
Sugars and Calories
The many names of sugars can be misleading. Besides, low-sugar products mostly contain products to compensate for their taste, which can include unnecessary chemicals. Reduced calories is a tag that is used as compared to its own product. However, in certain cases, one brand's old or original product can have fewer calories when compared to the upgraded, low-calorie version of another product.
The words fruit and flavor are not synonymous. Flavors are mostly chemicals that give us a taste of those fruits. It doesn't actually contain the goodness of the fruit.
Gluten-free doesn't validate the absence of other unhealthy stuff. If you are opting for a gluten-free diet, don't confuse the fact that the whole ingredient list is on the healthy side.
Natural products contain sources of fruits or vegetables; however, that doesn't mean they are completely based on them. So, the simple thumb rule of considering the whole product list rather than one product is to be followed.
Reduced fats are usually kept in bold while hiding the facts about their compensation. For instance, if a product low in fat has been managed with a higher sugar, it is a loss condition concealed under a golden tag.
When multiple sources of grains occur in a product, they are tagged as multi-grain. However, they don't reveal their prior processing. It means a processed multigrain is still a bad option.
The food products we consume surely determine our future health. So, make sure to consider every ingredient in the product to gain the right benefits. Look out for misleading facts and tags, and focus on the actual ingredient list of the product and not on those shiny front covers. Also, make sure to purchase products based on your individual dietary requirements.
Written By: Sameena
Edited By: Chirajita Gupta