Understanding Food Labels: From Grocery Basket to Healthy Diet
The pandemic has caused many changes in the way people live. Over the past year and a half, people have experienced changes in their normal daily activities including sleeping habits, exercise routine and daily eating. With the ceaseless rise of Covid-19 cases, people have started to be more concerned with their overall health and to a greater extent more than ever – the food they consume. As a result, more and more products are being manufactured to cater to this increased need of better and healthier food.
As a consumer, while it is good that there are an abundance of options of healthy food to choose from, it might be harder to discern if they are really healthy as they say. It is now with utmost importance that we become knowledgeable when it comes to reading and understanding food labels.
Food labels appear on almost all food packaging. They carry useful information to help you make informed choices about what you and your family eats and drinks. Many consumers are familiar with reading food labels like expiration dates, ingredients list, allergen or health claims. Apart from those, most food also includes the nutrition facts table (serving size, calories, and nutrients) which is equally important to take note of.
Here’s a quick guide on how to read your nutrition facts:
When reading nutrition facts, you can start by looking at the serving size as well as the number of servings per package. Serving sizes are stated in standardized measures (cups, tablespoons, pieces) so that it will be easier to compare similar foods.
After knowing the serving size, check how much calories one serving provides. Knowing the serving size as well as the calories per serving will help you control your consumption because then you will know that one pack may not necessarily mean that it is for single serving.
Third, check the nutrient content of the product. Is it high in the good stuff or the bad? Use the nutrition facts to support your personal dietary needs – look for foods that contain more of the nutrients you need and less of the nutrients you should limit. To help with that, looking at percent Daily Value (%DV) will be beneficial.
The % Daily Value (%DV) is the percentage of the recommended intake for each nutrient in a serving of the food. It shows how much a nutrient in a serving contributes to a total daily diet. The %DV helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient.
As a general guide, when you see that a certain nutrient is 5% or less in the nutrition facts list, it is regarded as low; if it is 20% or more, it is considered high.
Nutrients to get less of (%DV should be low as possible): Saturated fat, Trans-fat, Cholesterol, Sodium and Added Sugars
High consumption of saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol is linked to heart disease. Aim for your saturated fat consumption to be less than 10% of your total calories per day. Trans-fat should be as low as possible. While it may appear zero (0) in the nutrition facts, best to check the ingredients list and see if hydrogenated or partly hydrogenated oils are listed. For cholesterol, the recommended intake is 300mg or less per day.
Amount of sodium and added sugar is to be noted as well. Too much consumption of sodium is linked to heart diseases and high blood pressure while overconsumption of sugar may induce unwanted weight gain that may put you at risk to other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.
Nutrients to get more of (high %DV is preferable): Vitamins and Minerals, Dietary Fiber
Vitamins and minerals are essential substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. Choosing food items that are high in these can help in keeping your body healthy. High fiber diets on the other hand, can help lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It’s good news that there are products that are already in the market that provide additional preferred nutrients for us. One of those is our own Gardenia Multigrain Soft Bun. Aside from being filled with 6 different types of grains namely wheat, chia, sunflower, linseed, oat and millet which are good sources of fiber, it also provides different vitamins such as Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, Iron and Folate. You can enjoy it as it is or create some delicious recipe like Gardenia Grilled Veggies Buns that is sure not just to fill your tummy but also gives you the nutrients that you need.
Gardenia Grilled Veggies Buns
1 pack Gardenia Multigrain Soft bun
1/2 pc Carrots, thinly sliced
1 pc Tomato, thinly sliced
1 pc Bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 pc Zucchini, thinly sliced
1 tsp Sriracha
- Slice the bread in the middle and pan toast it. Flatten it and toast both sides.
- Pan grill all the vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the grilled vegetables onto the bread and add sriracha.
- Serve and enjoy!
Food Labels are designed to help consumers choose foods well. By knowing how to use and read it, you can understand how a particular food item can fit into your overall diet. You can more effectively and efficiently select foods and choose between products. So go ahead, check the label and make sure that you get proper nutrition, from your grocery basket to a healthy diet. Always aim for wellness!
Rolfes, S.R., Pinna, K., Whitney, E.N., Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition 7th edition. 2006. Pages 52-55
http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm accessed September 23, 2021
https://nkti.gov.ph/index.php/patients-and-visitors/nutrition-and-healthy-lifestyle-clinic. accessed September 28, 2021