For Shaklak Aklak’s second episode, they tackled everything regarding understanding nutrition labels found on food packets. Whatever you put into your body, it’s important to understand what it is made up of and how if will impact your health.

When looking at food labels, most of us will look at the country of origin of the food, the best before date, and cooking instructions. However, it is even more important that we look at the nutrition facts and information available, especially on packaged foods.

Serving Size
The first place to start when looking at nutrition labels is the serving size. It is important to note that the nutritional information on a food label is per serving size, which is often not the full container or package size. For example, the nutritional information on a canned soft drink is usually stated per serving size (100ml) even though most consumers will drink the full 330ml bottle, or 3 times the actual serving. Look at the serving size on the nutrition label versus how much you plan to eat so that you can multiply or divide the nutrition content accordingly.

While calories are by no means the only indicator you should be looking at when it comes to food labels, they are often a good indicator whether the product is unnecessarily high in sugar or fat or not. Most of us consume too many calories a day without meeting our micronutrient requirements, and the labelled calorie facts will help you break that down.

Nutrients You Should Limit
After assessing calorie content and serving size, you need to look at the levels of nutrients you should limit in the food. These are:

  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sugars
  • Sodium

5% or less of daily requirement = food is low in limiting nutrient
20% of more of daily requirement = food is high in limiting nutrient

Beneficial Nutrients
Next, you need to look at the beneficial nutrients on the food labels in order to weigh the risks with the benefits. These are:

  • Unsaturated Fat
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Vitamins and Minerals (Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron)

5% or less of daily requirement = food is low in beneficial nutrient
20% of more of daily requirement = food is high in beneficial nutrient

Ingredients List
Having a look at how many ingredients on the ingredients list have strange codes and numbers that you don’t understand or cannot pronounce is a good way of assessing whether a particular food will nourish your body or just do you more harm than good. Some ingredients you should always avoid in foods you buy include:

  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, isoglucose.
  • Hydrogenated oil
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Aspartame/Sucralose
  • BHA and BHT

Percentage Daily Values
Now that you know what the serving size of the food you are about to eat is, you can look at the percentage daily values to analyse how this food will contribute to your daily recommended nutritional needs. The percentage daily values are an average of how much an adult needs, but your specific requirements may vary based on your age, gender, and activity level.

For example, one glass of milk (200ml) contains 6g of protein, which is 12% of your daily protein requirements. If you had two glasses or milk you would be providing your body with 24% of your daily protein requirements. You should apply this to the rest of the foods you take in throughout the day and add everything up to ensure you are achieving your nutrient requirements daily.

Watch Out for Claims
The words ‘natural’, ‘pure’, or ‘low fat’ are often used as a marketing trick to convince the consumer a food is healthier than it really is. Food labelled ‘natural’ for example can contain genetically modified organisms (not natural!), refined sugar, pesticides, heavy metal toxins, MSG, and lots of other non-natural ingredients.

Similarly low fat, low sugar, and low sodium products can often be worse for you than their original counterparts. For example, lowering the salt means they probably added sugar or artificial flavor, lower fat probably means added sugar and lowered sugar probably means added artificial sugar; all not so healthy additions.

Now that you know what your nutrition labels mean, it’s important to read the nutrition facts on any packaged food you eat so that you know what you are really putting into your body.

Stay tuned for more Shaklak Aklak episodes where further nutritional values are discussed. Find out more information via the Shaklak Aklak website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Youtube channel.