The first thing to check is whether the nutrition information is per 100 g or per serving. If the package is just one serving size, then the numbers you see on the labelis what you get from the pack. Otherwise, you will have to deploy some basic maths skills to determine the amount of calories and nutrients you are actually giving your child!
- For example, nutrition facts are often shown per 100 ml even for a 200 ml tetra pack drink. If you are not alert to this fact, you might assume that your child is consuming only half the calories that she actually is!
The larger snack packs are the ones we need to watch out for. They weigh more than 100 g, like the one below, but present nutrition information for 100 g. Unfortunately, current labelling norms need not include serving size, and even if they did when was the last time you were able to convince your child to close the packet after eating 15 chips? So, it may be wiser to stick to the single serve packs while buying for your child!
Deciphering the calories further
What is declared on the pack is the total calories you get from theproduct. A quick calculation can tell you where most of the calories are coming from. – see green box in the right.
Do the math on the information provided in the label beside and you can see that carbohydrates provide (54.7×4) 218.8 kcal of energy, andfat provides (33×9) 297 kcal – nearly 55% of the energy is from fat! As a rule of thumb, if you find that approximately 50-60% of calories is coming from fat, you should definitely control the consumption of this product.
Carbohydrates: This is the next item on the label which needs your attention, as you can easily be misled by what is claimed. The number declared against carbohydrates indicates ‘total carbohydrates’ which includes complex carbohydrates (like what is found in cereals) and simple sugars as found in fruit, milk and cane sugar. If the sugarsare minimal, there is not much cause for concern. If sugars are the main contributor to the total carbohydrates, we need to look at it more carefully as excess consumption of sugar is detrimental to health. Going a step further, you need to see whether the product contains added sugar and, if yes, how much. Some responsible fruit beverage companies do differentiate between the added sugar and the sugar coming from the fruit (see nutrition labels below) 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.