How to read nutrition labels and what to look out for

When shopping for groceries, consciously choosing products is most important, because it is the first step in creating tasty, healthy and balanced dishes, thus ensuring the well-being of our bodies. Nutrition labels placed on foods allow us to know what product we are buying, what ingredients it is made of, where it was produced, and more.

This is therefore why it is important to read labels and know how to do so for truly quality shopping.

What information do nutrition labels contain?

According to Italian law, in thelabel of a product , the manufacturer must specify a range of information:

  • food name;
  • ingredient list;
  • Presence of allergens;
  • quantities of certain ingredients or categories of ingredients;
  • Net quantity of the food;
  • minimum shelf life or expiration date;
  • special storage conditions and/or the conditions of use;
  • Name or company name and address of the operator who was responsible for marketing the product;
  • Country of origin and place of origin of the product;
  • instructions for use, for cases where their omission would make it difficult to use the food properly;
  • for beverages containing more than 1.2 percent alcohol by volume, the actual alcoholic strength by volume;
  • Nutrition statement on energy value, fat, saturated fatty acids, carbohydrates, sugars, protein, and salt.

To prove that their product is of quality, companies invest in transparency because the more indications you have on the food label, the more certain you are of making an informed choice.

How to choose a quality food product?

When you have to pay attention to the nutrition declaration of a food, it is important to check on these aspects contained within thefood label:

  • saturated fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, so it is advisable to prefer foods that have a low amount of them. Their total daily intake should not exceed 7-10% of our energy needs. As a rule of thumb, ideally they should be less than one-third of the total fat in the food being considered;
  • daily salt intake should not exceed 5 grams per day, so again foods too high in salt should be avoided or consumed in a very park way;
  • the same goes for products that are high in sugar, they should be limited, the guidelines indicate a maximum consumption of 25 g per day of sugar.

It is also advisable to avoid for one’s health foods containing:

  • nitrites and nitrates;
  • Sulfites and sulfur dioxide;
  • monosodium glutamate;
  • Palm and canola oils;
  • Trans and hydrogenated fats.

Storage and use conditions to avoid food waste

Two other important pieces of information contained within food labels, in an effort to reduce food waste as much as possible, are the expiration date and the minimum shelf life:

  • To be consumed by…”is the limit by which the product must be compulsorily consumed. This is the case with very perishable products, such as dairy products, for which the date indicated represents the expiration date;
  • Best before…”specifies that the product can be consumed even if a few days have passed since the specified date without health risks.

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