It’s a time of consumers and various laws which protect their rights. One needs to understand the information provided on the food packet before buying it. Understanding of nutritional labels will promote healthy food choices. This labeling on food products is mandatory. These values can be laboratory tested or calculated from a nutrition value table. It was started by The Family and Health ministry of India to mention nutritional information on the packet of packaged food products. Mark of ISO, FPO or Agmark is required to be mentioned there. This helps consumers to get right information about the product.
There are two parts of information on food packet. One is about the weight and another is nutrient information. Nutrient information part gives detailed information about the nutrients present per serving. Ingredients list gives an idea about food commodities used in manufacturing.
Tips for making the most of the information on the Nutrition Facts label:
- Serving size: Note the size of a single serving and how many servings are in the package. Many times food products such as chips, fried savories use 10 gm as a serving size. Using this size nutritive values are given.
- Total Calories: Look at the serving size and how many servings you are really consuming. Doubling the servings you eat is equivalent to doubling the calories and nutrients, which includes the Percent Daily Value (% DV). These Percent daily values are RDA defined for an adult. One can see tag line ‘values taken from ICMR’.
- Nutrients of concern: Fat: It is important to remember that total fat consumption in a day should not exceed 56-78 grams in a day — this includes a limit of 16 grams of saturated fat, below 2 grams of trans-fat, and less than 300 mg cholesterol, for a 2000 calorie diet. Also consider sodium, sugar content of the product.
- Important nutrients: Make sure you get fiber, vitamins and other nutrients you need every day.
- % DV: The % DV section tells you the percent of each nutrient in a single serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. As a guide, if you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium), choose foods with a lower % DV — 5% or less is low. If you want to have more of a nutrient (such as fiber), look for foods with a higher % DV — 20% or more is high.
Tips for getting more health information from the Nutrition Facts label:
One should also keep in mind that the calculations have been provided for a 2000 calorie diet and one may need to consume more or less than that depending on one’s gender, age, activity, etc.
Also one must remember that in a 2000 calorie diet:
- 40 calories per serving is considered low; it means product providing 40 kcal per serving may claim as ‘low calorie’ food product.
- 100 calories per serving is considered moderate
- 400 calories or more per serving is considered high.
- No % DV shown for trans-fat: It is recommended to eat less than 20 calories or (less than 2 grams of trans-fat) a day, which is less than 1% of your total daily calories (for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet).
Ingredients: It is a helpful section if you have allergies for any specific food item, you must confirm before buying. For instance, Lactose intolerance (should not contain milk and milk products) and Gluten free (should not contain wheat and other products), among others.
Quick view on prefix used for amount of food product present:
- “Free” refers to food that has the least possible quantity of the specified nutrient.
- “Very Low” and “Low” means the food has a little more than foods labeled “Free”.
- “Reduced” or “Less” refers that the food has 25% less of any specific nutrient than the foods’ regular version.