How Are Ingredients Listed On a Food Label? – Overview
Food labels are an essential tool in developing a heart-healthy diet since they provide information about the calories and nutritional content of your foods.
The ingredients list is always presented in the same orderly format, allowing you to see how much of each nutrient is included in each serving of the product.
However, ingredient labels can be complex, and individuals often read them with different goals in mind.
This review will help you understand the figures, ingredients, and nutritional information crammed into that small or big package, whether you want to reduce your sugar intake, minimize calories, or boost your fiber intake.
You’ll be able to tell the difference between junk food and genuinely nutritious foods.
What to Look For
Pick a food container from the supermarket aisle, or reach for the nearest box in your store or pantry.
When you flip it over or check the side, you’ll be greeted by the ingredients and the nutritional information list.
Look at the ingredient list if you don’t look at anything else on the packaging. When it comes to reading this panel, it boils down to quantity and quality.
All ingredients, including water, must be written in descending order by volume. The first constituent is the one that is present in the largest quantity when the product was made.
For instance, if sugar is the first ingredient, it signifies that it’s the primary ingredient and that the product contains a lot of sugar. The final component was present in the least amount.
Kilojoules (KJ) are the units of energy on the ingredients panel. Carbs, fats, and protein all produce the energy (or kilojoules) that your body needs to function and carry out everyday tasks.
When comparing identical meals, lesser energy typically equates to less fat or sugar, implying that the item is a healthier option for the majority of individuals.
Fat, Salt, And Sugar
Depending on the ingredients used in the product, manufacturers might label fat, salt, and sugar levels under different titles.
As a result, certain dietary components may appear to be ‘hidden’ in the ingredient list.
These ingredients may go by different names, but excessive fat, salt, and sugar levels typically indicate that the product is unhealthy.
Fat can be labeled as beef fat, butter, coconut, copha, cream, dripping, egg, full cream milk powder, hydrogenated oils, lard, mayonnaise, mono/di/triglycerides, palm oil, shortening, sour cream, vegetable oils, and fats, etc.
Salt can be labeled as baking powder, booster, celery salt, garlic salt, meat extract, MSG (monosodium glutamate), nitrate, onion salt, rock salt, sea salt, sodium, sodium bicarb, sodium metabisulphite, sodium nitrate, stock cubes, yeast extract, etc.
Sugar can be labeled as brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, disaccharides, glucose, golden syrup, fructose, honey, fruit juice concentrate, fruit syrup, lactose, maple syrup, malt, molasses maltose, mannitol, monosaccharides, raw sugar, sugar, sorbitol, xylitol, etc.
See Also Sugar Free Foods
Food additives can be found in a variety of foods. Food additives must adhere to strict regulations in terms of how they are used in foods and how they are labeled on food items.
All food additives, such as binders and thickeners, must be specified on the ingredient list, for instance, thickener (1442) and xanthan gum (E415).
In addition, the label must indicate if an additive is based on a possible allergen, for instance, nuts or wheat.
Nine foods are responsible for 90% of all food-related allergic reactions. These include cow milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, sesame, shellfish, soybean, tree nuts, and wheat.
If these substances are included in a food product, companies must disclose this information, regardless of how small the amount is.
The information can be listed in a variety of ways. For instance, if you’re checking if a food product has eggs, you might come across the following terms.
- Albumin (egg)
- Contains eggs (usually at the end of the list)
- Egg albumin
- Chocolate, eggs, and sugar (usually indicated in bold)
Also, if a product is processed on the same equipment as, or close to, other foods that contain possible food allergens, the warning ‘might contain trace amounts of’ may be included.
However, note that it’s not compulsory for manufacturers to use the ‘may contain’ tag, so it doesn’t mean that products without this tag are necessarily safer than those that do.
Health and Nutrition Claims
Dietary claims on food ads and packaging such as “low-fat” can be confusing and deceptive.
Nutritional claims may pique your interest, but reading the nutritional information panel is usually a brilliant idea to confirm what’s being advertised.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about everyday health and nutrition claims:
Certified organic or organic: Various private companies have the authority to label products as organic. But, each one of these products must adhere to national standards.
Companies have different certification requirements based on where they are situated.
Cholesterol free: The product has no cholesterol but still has fat.
Fat-free: For a company to indicate this on a product, it must have less than 0.15% fat.
Light or Lite: This could mean that the food is light in color, taste, or texture. Ensure you confirm the fat content in the nutritional info section.
No added sugar or sugar-free: The product doesn’t have sucrose or table sugar. However, it might have other forms of sugar as well as fat and salt.
Oven-baked not fried: Products with this tag might still be coated or sprayed with oil before being oven-baked, meaning they still have high amounts of fat.
Reduced fat or salt: A product with this tag should have at least 25% less fat or salt compared to the original product.
Keep in mind that this tag doesn’t mean the product is ‘low in fat or salt’ or has less fat or salt compared to similar products.
To sum it all up, the ingredient list is the second most vital component in a food package.
After checking the nutritional facts section, the ingredient list should be your next stop. It’s a good idea to cross-check the two sections and see if the facts indicated align.