How to read a food label
Food labels and making healthy choices can be confusing. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, a longtime Emergency Department nurse, shares her tips to help you make informed decisions when you shop.
WHY SHOULD YOU READ FOOD LABELS?
Nurse Rose: Reading the back of a food label can help you can make healthy and safe food choices.
- Read every label, every time. Double-check the label of every item before you put it in your cart. This is very important for individuals with food allergies. Manufacturers may change ingredients based on what’s available or where the food was processed.
HOW MUCH ATTENTION SHOULD CONSUMERS PAY TO MARKETING CLAIMS ON PACKAGING?
Nurse Rose: Marketing claims serve to capture your attention. They do not necessarily mean the products are healthy for you.
- Ignore marketing claims. That big sticker on the front of your favorite snack claiming it’s low-fat doesn’t make it a healthy option. Foods that are low in fat may be high in sugar or sodium to help make up for the taste.
- Focus on the Nutrition Facts and ingredients. These are located on the back and side panels of packaging and are the most reliable information.
WHAT SHOULD SHOPPERS LOOK FOR ON FOOD LABELS?
Nurse Rose: Be sure to look at the ingredient list, serving size and dietary targets on food labels.
- Check the ingredients list. Manufacturers are required to list ingredients based on how much is in the item. That means if your snack has a lot of sugar, you’ll see sugar – or one of its 61 names – listed near the beginning of the list.
- Pay attention to serving size. Make sure you’re eating the recommended serving size and know exactly what that is for each food.
- Watch for added sugar. Manufacturers are now required to list how much added sugar is in a product, which can help consumers make healthier choices.