Supermarket shelves are stacked with convenience foods. Remember the days when you had to buy the ingredients and make a peppermint crisp tart from scratch? Now you can simply pick it off the shelf – and in varying sizes too. The same goes for spaghetti bolognaise, curries, pies, and even popcorn and salads come pre-packaged. Reading the labels of some of these pre-packaged foods can be scary, especially when trying to choose the best nutrition for your family. However, if you want to get your family’s nutrition right, you need to know how to interpret the information on these food labels:
The ingredients list
The more fresh ingredients found in the ingredients list, the better. The rule of thumb about the ingredients list is that the highest ingredient by weight will be first on the list. If that ingredient is wheat, vinegar, or sugar on the label of a product listed as “fresh”, then your gut should tell you that the product isn’t as healthy as it proclaims to be.
The nutrition information panel
Below the ingredients list, you should find the nutrition information panel, which lists the energy, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and sodium per serving. Aside from regular fresh fruits and vegetables, the sugar, fats, fibre, and sodium should not exceed or be below the following numbers:
Sugars – No more than 90g per day. Keep refined sugar intake (from sweets, soft drinks, and sugar in tea or coffee) to a minimum and do not exceed 15 teaspoons in a day.
Sodium – Similarly, too much salt is also bad for your children. Your children’s salt intake should not exceed one teaspoon, and this includes salt used in cooking as well as at the table. Encourage your children to drink plenty of water, which should balance out the salt in their bodies.
Fats – The same rules for adults also apply to kids. Let them enjoy polyunsaturated fats found in avocado, olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids (salmon and other oily fish), but stay away from the trans fats found in chips and some biscuits.
Fibre – There is plenty of fibre found in fruits and vegetables, but children’s cereals are also supposed to be “high in fibre”. It’s important to know whether this is just marketing or whether the products are a “source of fibre” (contain 3g per 100g) or are “high in fibre” (6g or more per 100g).
Visuals courtesy of: biosanes.com