Lack of access to education may be one of the biggest issues in India. We are however sadly mistaken if we think that lack of education and poor nutrition go hand in hand. Even among the educated, ‘Nutrition Literacy’ is far from where it should be! Of the multiple challenges in being nutrition literate, an important one is in the area of nutrition labels.
We walk into a grocery store and add items to our basket, often picking attractively packaged products, blissfully unaware of what nutrition it actually delivers. In fact, many of us hardly ever read the label. And, even if we do get around to looking at the label, we do not understand it completely and are left with many unanswered questions. This article aims to throw light on the various components of a nutrition label, with the intent to move the needle up on nutrition label literacy.
Why is it important to read nutrition labels?
With urbanisation and globalisation, household incomes have risen. Also, with more women working long hours outside the home, there is less time available to prepare home-cooked meals. This has led to a steady increase in the consumption of packaged foods, especially snacks and ready-to-drink beverages. All this, combined with fewer calories burnt, is fuelling the rise in obesity, even among children, other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart problems among adults. So, as parents, it is important we know what we are feeding our children. In the case of older children, we should equip them with the right information about what they should eat. A good place to start this journey is with the nutrition label on the back of packaged foods. Learning to read the label will guide you to make healthier choices for your family.
What is a nutrition label?
How does one read them?
What do the numbers mean?
The nutrition table refers to the small table printed on the back of a food packet, with key words like energy, fat, and carbohydrate, along with numbers against them. In smaller packs, due to the lack ofspace, the nutrition facts may be stated in a text format instead of as a table. The packaging of the product gives detailed information on many aspects – ingredients used in making the product, claims on the product benefits, ‘best before’ date, etc. Some manufacturers also include healthy eating information.
In the developed world, nutrition labels have been used for decades, but in India it was only recently used by the Foods Safety andStandards authority of India (FSSAI). Today, all food manufacturers in the country have to declare the following on a label:
- Nutritional Information or nutritional facts per 100 g or 100 ml or per serving of the product
- energy value in kcal,
- total carbohydrate and sugar,
- the amount of protein,
- fat in gram (g) or ml, and
- the amount of any other nutrient (vitamin and minerals) for which a nutrition or health claim is made.
We will walk you through examples from food categories like snacks and beverages, as they are most consumed by children! Serving Size/Number of servings in a pack/net weight: