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How to Read a Food Label

In to

day's fast-paced world, where convenience often takes precedence over health, it's crucial to understand what you're consuming. Food labels serve as a valuable tool in making informed choices about the products we buy and eat. In this blog post, we'll explore the art of reading a food label, with a particular focus on deciphering the difference between fats and sugars.

Understanding the Food Label

  1. Serving Size: The first step in reading a food label is to identify the serving size. All the information on the label is based on this serving size, so it's crucial to ensure you're comparing apples to apples when assessing different products.

  2. Calories: Next, take note of the calorie count per serving. This tells you the amount of energy you'll get from consuming one serving of the product.

  3. Fats: The Good and the Bad

    • Total Fat: This section tells you the total amount of fat in a serving. However, not all fats are created equal. Pay attention to the subcategories:

      • Saturated Fat: These are typically solid at room temperature and are often found in animal products and some plant oils. Excessive intake of saturated fats can increase the risk of heart disease.

      • Trans Fat: These are artificially created fats and should be avoided as much as possible. They have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and should be kept at a minimum.

      • Unsaturated Fat: These are considered healthy fats and can be found in sources like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. Including these in your diet can have numerous health benefits, such as improving cholesterol levels.

  1. Sugars: Natural vs. Added

    • Total Sugars: This represents both natural and added sugars in the product. Natural sugars, like those in fruits and dairy, are generally considered healthier because they come with essential nutrients. Added sugars, on the other hand, provide empty calories and can lead to health problems when consumed excessively.

    • Added Sugars: Some food labels now include a separate line for added sugars, thanks to updated labeling regulations. Keep an eye out for this, as it can help you make more informed choices.

  1. Ingredients List: Don't forget to scan the list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, with the most abundant ingredient listed first. Be cautious of products with long lists of unrecognisable or highly processed ingredients.

  2. Nutrients: The label will also provide information on various nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fibre, and protein. Depending on your dietary needs, you can use this information to ensure you're getting the right balance of nutrients.

Practical Tips

  • Comparison Shopping: When comparing similar products, look at the labels to choose the one with lower saturated and trans fats and lower added sugars.

  • Beware of Marketing Tricks: Be cautious of terms like "low fat" or "fat-free" and "sugar-free." These products may compensate for flavor by adding other unhealthy ingredients. Always check the label.

  • Mind the Serving Size: Pay attention to the serving size, as a small serving can make a product appear healthier than it actually is.

  • Consider Your Dietary Goals: Depending on your dietary goals, you might need to prioritise certain nutrients. For example, if you're watching your sugar intake, choose products with low added sugars.

Reading a food label is a skill that empowers you to make healthier choices for you and your family. Understanding the difference between fats and sugars is a crucial part of this process. By paying attention to serving sizes, calories, fats, and sugars, you can make informed decisions about what goes into your body, ultimately contributing to your overall well-being. Remember, the more you know, the better equipped you are to make healthy choices at the grocery store.

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