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Do you know how to read nutrition labels?

Sugar watch”: The number declared against carbohydrates indicates ‘total carbohydrates’ which includes complex carbohydrates (like what is found in cereals), simple sugars as found in fruit, milk and cane sugar and fibre. Check if the product contains added sugar. Some responsible fruit beverage companies do differentiate between the added sugar and the sugar coming from the fruit but many do not.  So, if you are not able to figure out, take a look at the ingredient list on the pack – if the ingredient list includes ‘sugar’ in addition to water and juice concentrate, you can be certain that sugar has been added to make the product.

“Fat Facts”: There are good fats and bad fats. But in our country, companies are not required to provide a break-up of the fat in foods unless they make health claims like ‘low fat,’ ‘low cholesterol’.  As a result, one can never be sure of the type of fat used in the packaged food. One way to find out is to look at the ingredient list for words like ‘partially hydrogenated fat’ ‘shortening,’ as these products have a higher proportion of bad fats (trans fat). In the absence of any of the above information it might be best to avoid products which are high in fat content.

Trust you find these pointers useful. Next time when you go to the grocery store, do look for the nutrition label and ingredient list on pack. If you are not happy with the information given, or after doing the math realise this should not be in your basket, put it right back on the shelf and do yourself and your kids a favour!



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Meera Srinivasan is on the ParentEdge Editorial Panel. She has a background in Nutrition and Food Technology and comes with more than 15 years of experience in the food industry. As an involved parent of a 12-year old girl, she is passionate about increasing awareness on nutrition and health among children and parents.

4 thoughts on “Do you know how to read nutrition labels?

  1. Shuchi Gangwal

    Hi Meera, This is indeed very useful : decoding labels – simply explained :) . I think the most important part is the 100g/ml/serving (variable) unit for which the declaration is done on the packs irrespective of the overall size of the pack – something we need be extremely careful about !

  2. Kritika Srinivasan

    Thanks for this Meera. I dont think most of us bother to read nutrition labels at all – we just rush to pop things into our basket and then we are on our way out.

    I must add, though your post is clear and helpful in telling us what to do, it is still pretty confusing for an average person to read a nutrition label correctly. For instance, how would an aam aadmi know that to calculate the amount of calories you get from fat, you need to multiply by 9?!!! Do companies do this deliberately – keep this information confusing so that people simply pick up stuff without bothering to read the labels?

    Meera – it would be great if you could also do a post on junk food – and how much of it children can be allowed in a week, etc.

  3. Meera

    thanks shuchi and kritika for your comments
    Shuchi yes the serving size is key so you know what nutrtion you are actually getting!
    Kritika – your are right currently we need to decipher this, in our country we have made start, hopefully we will move to the more evolved and transparent labeling followed in he west where percent calories from fat, carbohydrates and protein are declared.

    Junk food — good suggestion thanks will write about it

  4. Senthil Sundar

    Interesting facts Meera. Let me start reading these labels and try to identify good products. Seems to be complex calculation while shopping.. May be post shopping we can do the analysis to be cautious next time :-)


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