Tips to Save You From Misleading Health Claims on Food Labels
Reading food nutrition labels is often tricky. Some labels can be confusing and may convince people to buy highly processed and unhealthy products.
But consumers are much more health-conscious than ever, which is why they want to understand the nutrition contents of the food items they wish to purchase. Nutrition labels can help make healthier eating choices and identify nutrient-dense foods for a healthy diet. But as food labeling regulations are complex, food labels are usually harder for consumers to understand.
Here are some tips to help make nutrition facts labels less confusing.
Start with the Serving Information at the Top
You will get to know the size of a single serving and the total number of servings per container or package.
Check Total Calories Per Serving and Container
Look at the calories per serving and learn how many calories you’re really going to consume if you eat the whole package. With doubling the servings you eat, it will also double the calories and nutrients.
Understand % Daily Value
The % Daily Value (DV) tells us what percentage of nutrients single serving contains, in terms of the daily recommended amount. So, if you want to consume less of a nutrient, such as saturated fat or sodium, you may select foods with a lower % DV.
For foods with more healthier nutrients, choose foods with a higher % DV.
Get Enough of the Beneficial Nutrients
Ensure that you get enough of the nutrients your body needs, such as dietary fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, D and E.
See the labels displaying food ingredients by quantity — from highest to lowest amount. It means the first ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most of. A good rule of thumb is to scan the first three ingredients, because they make up the largest part of what you will be consuming. So, try looking for products that display whole foods as the first three ingredients and be skeptical of foods with long lists of ingredients.
The Nutrition Claims
Food labels on packaged food items are intended to grab your attention and convince you that the food is healthy. But there are also claims which may be confusing.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that the food product resembles anything natural. It may indicate that the manufacturer sourced natural ingredients like apples or rice.
Light food products are designed to be lower either fat or calories. Some of them are just watered down. So, what you need to do is to check carefully if anything has been added, such as sugar.
Food labels will tell you very little about whether the food product is really healthy so always look at the ingredient list to get the full picture. Take the example of organic sugar, which is still sugar.
A gluten-free food product simply doesn’t contain barley, spelt, wheat, or rye. Gluten-free food products may be highly processed and loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar.
There are many more health claims, such as zero trans fat, fruit-flavored, enriched, made with whole grains, low-carb, low-calorie, low-fat, and no added sugar, to name a few. These are marketing terms associated with improved health and often confuse consumers. It is wise to read the nutrition facts labels and ingredient statements carefully.
The Bottom Line:
If you understand food nutrition information on labels correctly, you can avoid being confused and make informed choices of food items that you want. However, as food manufacturers are bound to comply with the food labeling guidelines and aware of the fact non-compliance invites scrutiny, they try to ensure food labels display all the required information.
In order to do so, food manufacturers implement a nutrition label maker application to calculate the nutritional values of their food items and generate food labels to meet food regulations.