Quick Guide to Understanding Food Nutrition Labels
Understanding food labels can help you make a healthier choice for you and your family. Here is a quick and easy guide to make the most of the information on the Nutrition Facts label.
Serving Information at the top of the food label
This portion tells you the size of a single serving as well as the total number of servings per package or container.
Total calories per serving
This portion tells you how many servings you really consume if in case you ate the whole package or container. Doubling the servings you’re going to eat means doubling the nutrients as well as the calories.
The next section on the nutrition label tells you the number of specific nutrients in the product.
Saturated fats, and Trans Fat
It is essential to limit the amount of saturated fat you consume. Additionally, avoid eating trans fat. Choose foods that have less of these nutrients as much as possible.
Nutrients You Need
Get enough of beneficial nutrients such as protein, dietary fibre, iron, vitamin, calcium and other nutrients you need daily.
Why do we need food labelling?
Most of the food labelling is being regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA. For meat and poultry products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services or FSIS are the ones regulating them. FDA-regulated products and FSIS-regulated products both have the same nutrition information required on the product labels. Additionally when the product has undergone the necessary food safety audits, the producer is able to receive more beneficial information about their product.
When produce such as meat is distributed, it must also undergo similar testing at meat testing laboratories so the correct information is provided to the consumer such as best before dates and how to store the product. The reason there isn’t a generic label for these products is because of the process each different producer/manufacturer uses to cure their meat which may change how long the food will last and its nutritional content.
Similar to meat, milk also needs to meet certain standards based on the way the producer / distributer packages and produces their milk. Milk testing is the producer which milk will undergo to ensure that it has been correctly pasteurised and is given an appropriate best before date.
Aside from guide mentioned above, below are also some of the tips you need to know from the Nutrition Facts label:
- You may need to consume more or less than 2,000 calories depending on your gender, age or activity level. Your daily calorie intake also depends whether you are trying to gain, lose or maintain your weight.
- If the label of the Nutrition Facts indicates “0 g trans fat” yet includes “partially hydrogenated oil”, then it would only mean the food contains a trans fat. The trans fat in it could only contain less than 0.5 grams per serving. Eating more than one serving would mean you could quickly reach your average limit of trans fat each day.
- Determining fatty acids, saturated fats or trans fat is required in nutrition labelling. To do this food testing is required at food laboratories which will determine how much fatty acid, saturated or trans fat is contained in a specific food or product.
- Additionally, a food chemical analysis is also an essential part of any food safety testing program such as food safety auditing and certifications. This is to ensure that the safety of the consumer is in compliance with regulatory limits.
Understanding the terms used in the nutrition label will make it easier for you to make a quick and informed food choice that will eventually contribute to you and your family’s healthy diet.