Personally, I started reading nutrition labels when I began my B.Sc Nutrition and Dietetics program. I often saw ‘Nutrition fact’ inconspicuously written on packaged food items, but I overlook it most of the time. So why are nutrition labels often overlooked by consumers?
Probably because most people are ignorant of it, Some that know about it don’t fully understand how it’s being read, others don’t bother to read it because it strains their eyes, yet some are just plain HUNGRY, too hungry to read the nutrition fact on the food they’re about consuming.
Imagine this scenario. After a tiring day from work/school, you came home famished. Then you had to rush to the store to get food considering that there’s no food at home. On getting to the store, you quickly picked two instant noodles, not your regular brand.
The first thing you’ll do once you get home is to cook it, then eat. Because at this point you’re already starving, the name of the noodle producing company isn’t your primary concern let alone the nutrition fact on the label. Your primary concern is to fill your stomach.
Now, I’m not trying to justify why some people don’t read nutrition labels. I’ll never do that! This same people that will seldom read nutrition labels will carefully read the labels on cloths before they buy them. (Smh)
Why you must read nutrition fact labels
The nutrition label provides key information about a packaged food such as serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrate and vitamin content, in all, there should be 15 core nutrients on food labels. The label also contains a list of the ingredients in the food. This information helps you stay on track with your daily nutritional/diet targets.
Typically, people all over the world consume too much salt, saturated fat and added sugar. Hence, the need arises to nutrition labels so that you know what and how much you’re eating plays a central role in being able to cut back on your intake.
Food ingredients to limit in your diet
It’s recommended that you cut back your sodium (salt) intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day. If you have high blood pressure, it’s crucial to pay attention to the sodium content of foods.
This can increase your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. The average adult should consume no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.
This also increases your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should get 0 grams of trans-fat per day. When you read a nutrition label remember that companies are allowed to list the amount of trans-fat as “0 grams” if it contains less than 5 grams of trans-fat per serving. This means that your food can contain some trans-fat even if the nutrition label says “0 grams” per serving! Always check the ingredient list for trans-fat, which may be listed as “hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Trans-fat is usually found in commercially prepared baked goods, fried foods, snack foods and margarine.
You should eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day (and less than 200 milligrams per day if you have heart disease).
Food Ingredients you should get more of in your diet
Fibre helps your body digest the food you eat, and it can help lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. A food is considered high in fibre if it contains 5 grams of fibre or more per serving. Men 50 years of age and younger should get at least 38 grams of fibre per day, while women 50 years of age and younger should consume at least 25 grams of fibre per day. Fibre is found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for the words “whole grain” on the package and ingredient list.
Vitamins and Minerals:
The nutrition label lists vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. You should try to get more of these nutrients in your daily diet, as well as other vitamins and minerals that are not listed on the label.
A healthy diet is crucial throughout your lifetime, since we can’t completely avoid packaged foods, paying attention to nutrition labels is a good step toward improving your overall diet.
You are what you eat, eat healthy!