Nutrition Labels: How to Read Them and Choose Right
How many times have we stood in a supermarket aisle and looked at the endless rows of cereal or ‘healthy’ snacks and wondered which is the best one for our child? How many times have we attempted to read the nutrition label to get an idea of the contents but have ended up more clueless and confused?
The food we choose for our kids can greatly impact their overall health. Hence, it’s important that we LEARN HOW to read a food label so that we can get beyond the tall ‘promises’ on the packaging and really understand if that food fits into our child’s balanced diet.
What can a nutrition label tell us?
Apart from the production and expiry date, we can also find a list of ingredients and nutritional facts.
1. Ingredient list
Ingredients are usually listed by weight, from highest to lowest. For eg. if sugar is listed as the first ingredient, it means the product is high in sugar, so it’s better to look for other products and then choose the most ideal one. Ingredient lists also help us know if there are ingredients that trigger our child’s allergies. Eg. nuts
2. Nutrition facts table
This gives us more information of the nutritional value of the product. This can help us pick foods that are lower in certain fats, sugars and salt. Here’s a sample nutrition facts table of a fruit salad:
3. Serving size
This tells us how many servings there are in a food package. In our example above, there are 6 servings in the package, with 213 gms per serving. If our child consumes more than 1 serving, we need to multiply the value by 2, ie. 426 gms.
The number of servings our child consumes determines the number of calorie she eats. For eg. in our example above, 1 serving contains 143 calories. It’s important to remember that too many calories can cause weight gain in our children, so we should monitor the servings accordingly.
These are other nutrients that the food contains. In our example, eating 1 serving gives our child 34 gms of carbohydrates, 1 gm of fat and 3 gms of protein.
6. % Daily Value or GDA
These help determine if a serving of food is high or low in a particular nutrient, as a percentage of a child’s daily dietary needs.
In order to ensure our child gets the right nutrients for his growth and good health, we should do the following:
Limit his intake of the following nutrients: Saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugars (listed under total carbohydrates). We should look for % Daily Value of 5% or less of these nutrients. Anything over 20% DV is too high.
Ensure he gets enough of the following nutrients: Carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, vitamin A, C, and D, calcium and iron.
Read the food label keeping in mind the food item we’re looking at
For eg. if we’re looking at a milk container food label, we should check that it contains essential nutrients for our child’s healthy growth such as Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron and Vitamin C.
Remember mamas, just 5 minutes of reading a food label can help you make a better, healthier choice for you and your family. This will help our child get a balanced diet to support his growth and healthy development.