By Wilma Bedford
Food labels are something we gave gotten so used to that we no longer even look at them and sometimes we also don’t understand properly what they say. By reading and understanding the labels, you can obtain the optimum nutritional value, eat healthily and even control your weight if, for example, you know what the sugar and fat contents and the portion sizes are.
The label contains a list of ingredients and a list of nutritional values. The ingredients list shows the main ingredient first. Fats and sugars are usually indicated with different names, for example, vegetable fats as palm oil or coconut oil and animal fats as saturated fats. Sugar is indicated as sucrose or cane sugar, honey, maltose, fructose, dextrose or grain sugar, while salt is indicated as sodium or MSG.
The nutrition label provides information regarding the energy and nutritional value of the contents of the packet or tin. What needs to be looked at here, is the energy, protein, starch, sugar, fats, fibre and salt per 100g or 100ml and per recommended portion. Compare this information with another similar product to decide which one suits you best.
By looking at the energy content of a product, you will know how much energy you will receive from the food item, how it will affect your weight and whether the product will be suitable for a complete wholesome meal or just serve as a snack.
Energy is measured in kilojoules (KJ) (1 calorie = 4.18 kilojoules) and the terms “low in”, “less”, are misleading. A product can only be described as “low” in energy if it does not contain more than 170KJ per 100g or 80KJ per 100ml and can only be considered “high” if it contains 950KJ per 100g or 250KJ per 100ml. It is therefore essential to understand what high and low mean.
Proteins, which are essential for the building and maintenance of cells, will lead to weight increase if consumed excessively; the same goes for sugar. Sugar-free claims can only be made when a product contains 0.5g sugar per 100g/ml, while a low-fat product should in total contain less than 3g per 100g and less than 1.5g per 100ml fat. Saturated fats can only be labelled as low if they don’t contain more than 1.5g per 100g (solid food) or 0.75g per 100ml (liquid).
With the new manufacturing laws that came into effect in South Africa in 2010, a manufacturer may not lay claim to certain nutritional values for his product until it has been analysed by an accredited laboratory. Descriptions such “rich in”, “an outstanding source of”, “enriched with X”, “with Y added”, and “contains Z” may not be used.
No foodstuff may be advertised by professing that is it recommended by a celebrity or a medical practitioner, or that Mrs X lost 10kg lost weight through using the product, or that it is a food product that can cure an illness.
The portion size is not necessarily the amount that you eat but the amount that a typical eater will consume during a meal. Rather use this information to determine how many kilojoules is in a portion and if you might be exceeding your daily quota. Because kilojoules matter!
How to read food labels https://www.health24.com/Diet-and-nutrition/Nutrition-basics/what-your-food-labels-mean-20160411
How to Read Nutrition Labels for Weight Loss and Health
Naomi Tupper, Researched Based Article https://www.caloriesecrets.net/how-to-read-nutrition-labels-for-weight-loss-and-health/#post-author