Understanding Food Labels

Food labels show us what are in the products we’re consuming. However, even for the most knowledgeable they can still be confusing. Whether you’re looking at the labelling on the front of packaging or the nutritional facts on the back, it’s essential to know what you’re reading if you’re going to be able to make the right choices. So, here are some of the most common food labeling terms explained so that you can understand food labels better.

Claims about nutrient levels

  •  Low sodium. This means that the product contains 140mg of sodium – or less – per serving.
  • Less sodium. If you see the label ‘less sodium’ then it means that this product contains 25% less than the sodium you’d find in the regular version of the product. ‘Reduced sodium’ and ‘low sodium’ indicate the same.
  • An excellent source of… when this appears on food labelling it means that this product has 20% of the daily value of the nutrient per serving.
  •  A good source of… this means you’ll find at least 10% of the daily serving of a specific nutrient in the product.

Claims about product type

  • Organic. This means the product must meet certain standards on practices such as fertilisers, crop rotation, disease management and that there is no genetic engineering (GMOs).
  • Locally grown. There is no specific definition of what ‘local’ is, which means that if you see locally grown on labelling it hasn’t necessarily been grown within any specific distance from where you bought the product.
  • Certified Pesticide Residue Free. This labelling means that the product has been tested and has pesticide levels that are below the independent standards set for this. Certified Pesticide Free is a different standard than Pesticide Free, which is not regulated or defined.

Claims about animal or fish products

  • Natural. If you’re buying meat labelled natural then this should be free of any artificial ingredients or colouring and only minimally processed.
  • No hormones. This means that the meat you’re eating comes from animals that haven’t been fed hormones as part of their diet.
  • Organic. There are specific standards that meat has to meet if it’s going to be certified as organic. For example, the animals will need to have been raised outdoors all year round and not be continuously confined to cages or inside.
  • Free range. This term means that the animals must have had access to an outdoor area but there is no specification in terms of how much room and this can be widely interpreted.
  • Pole and line caught. This means that the fish were caught one at a time, rather than in batches in a net (which can also mean lots of unintended species are also caught).

Claims about packaged goods

  •  No added sugar. This means that no sugars were added during the processing or packaging process (but the product may still contain sugar).
  • Unsweetened. A product with this label will have no added sweetener, even artificial sweetener.
  • Antioxidant-rich. Although this term is regulated there is no need for food companies to state whether the antioxidants are naturally occurring or added.

These are some of the basics that can help you to better understand food labels. Find out more by downloading the MyLife265.Me app today.