There is certainly no shortage of information about making healthy choices in our diet, but much of it seems confusing and conflicting! How do we make sense of the nutritional information on food packaging in the limited time available on our shopping trips?
Winchester Chiropractor Max Atkinson says that food labels on packaging can be helpful when trying to decide between two similar products on the supermarket shelf, but they can also cause confusion. We have put together this short guide to help you make more informed, healthy choices.
Nutrition Labels on the Front of the Pack
This is where you will usually find the ‘at a glance’ summary of nutritional information, a quick guide that helps you easily compare two similar products to check the total amount of fat (and how much of this is saturated fat), the sugar and salt content and the number of calories in 100 grams (and often, per serving as well).
Many packs now use the ‘traffic light’ colour-coded system for even easier identification of foods that are high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in fat (and saturated fat), sugar and salt.
Choosing a pack with more green indicators can help to make a healthy choice, quickly. Packs with more amber are better choices than more reds, but they should still be eaten in moderation – and the packs with more reds should be consumed less frequently and perhaps, in smaller amounts.
Nutrition Labels and Reference Intakes on the Reverse or Side of the Pack
More detailed information is displayed on the reverse or side of the pack; here you will find the energy content (in kj and kcal), the fat, protein, carbohydrate, sugar and salt content and other helpful advice (for example, about the fibre and vitamin content).
This section is where you may also find information about Reference Intakes or RI. RI shows the percentage of the recommended daily amount of fat, protein, carbohydrate, sugar and salt contained in 100 grams of the product or per serving.
Confused By ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ Dates?
Many foods have ‘use by’ dates. Examples are fresh meats, fish and prepared salads. It is not safe to eat these products after the ‘use by’ date but for items that may be frozen, it is safe to freeze them on the day of purchase for later use. Products that can be frozen, will have a snowflake symbol on the pack, with information to tell you how long you can keep them frozen and whether you need to defrost before cooking or not.
Many UK households waste a lot of money by throwing away an estimated 7.2 million tons of food that has reached its ‘best before’ date every year. As the term ‘best before’ implies, this is not a ‘use by’ date, but an indicator of when the product will start to go past its best in terms of taste and texture although if it has been stored correctly, it is still safe to eat.
Learning How to Make Healthier Choices
Product labels can be invaluable in helping to make better, healthier choices for yourself and for your family when shopping. For many of us, although this is an important first step to better health, learning more about the nutritional needs of our bodies in order to achieve optimal health, can be a bit more of a challenge.
At Bradford House, Winchester Chiropractor Max Atkinson provides nutritional advice on diet and appropriate supplementation to his patients as part of the Chiropractic care he offers. He has found that even among those who consider they have a ‘good’ diet, nutritional deficiencies or even over-nutrition can be a problem that has long-term implications for good health, so please call the practice today on 01962 861188 to arrange your initial appointment.