Tips for deciphering nutrition labels

Nutrition labels can often seem like a maze that is difficult to decipher. Gisela Bouvier, dietician-nutritionist with years of experience, demystifies this challenge and offers practical tips for reading these labels effectively and make informed decisions about our diet.

“Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated”

Gisela Bouvier

For Gisela Bouvier, the key is to simplify nutrition. “Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated,” she says with conviction. According to the expert, It is essential that people become familiar with nutrition labels and take time to understand critical elements such as sodium, sugar, and fiber.

Do you know how to read nutritional labels?

Taking care of our diet is a growing concern, finding in the sustainability and the health the pillars on which this concern is based. But ignorance is often an obstacle: Do you get lost when you go to the supermarket? Don’t you understand the nutritional labels?

In the new episode of podcast “At ease with the land”, Noelia López, Nestlé nutritionist, delves into this field to teach us how to make conscious and informed decisions. Because, although it is important not to become obsessed, checking the labels of the packaged products we buy should be a routine.

Why are packaged products labeled?

“Nutritional tables are the means of communication between food manufacturers and food consumers,” says the expert.

Labeling has the function of informing about the content of the products offered. This is a specification required by law (although there are exceptions) and includes data such as:

  • The nutritional contribution: What energy value does it have? What does it contribute?
  • Origin: Where does the product come from?
  • Conservation: How should you preserve it? Refrigerated, at room temperature or frozen?
  • Ingredients: What has been added?
  • Allergens: Are there traces of nuts? Milk? Soy?

Taking these factors into account will be crucial, especially for those who have a intolerance either allergy food.

How do you decide what information is on the product?

Did you know that there is a regulation that regulates exactly what must appear on the label? There are even guidelines on font size!

This is how he explains it Noelia Lopezwho indicates that the goal is, among other things, for all sellers to stipulate the true content of their products. Of course, the information will depend on the type of product, the method of sale or its presentation.

On nutritional labels we find…

Knowing this, we must take into account what we may encounter on the nutritional labels that we find on the back of the different containers. Because, logically, to make a conscious decision, we must first know:

Product denomination

  • You know what you’re buying?

That is the question that this mandatory and descriptive mention answers. A cheese? Juice? A nectar? The name of the product helps us clear up doubts in this sense.

  • List of ingredients

A list of ingredients is another mandatory information on a product label.

As consumers we are more inclined to read this list, but what we generally do not know is that they follow a specific order and there is a reason behind all of this.

The listing of the ingredients is done based on the proportion in which it is found in the food: that is, the higher up on the list, the more quantity it has. This is very helpful to know, especially when we do not have the specific percentages of each of the components.

  • The featured ingredients

And those ingredients in capital letters, in bold or in capital letters and bold? What are they?

When we find certain words that stand out above the rest, we should know that they are allergens. In total there are 14 different and you should always check them in case of intolerance or allergy. And beware! You can find traces of any allergen, no matter how unrelated it may be to the product itself.

  • May contain traces of…

This is due to the cross contamination. Because even if it happens unintentionally and hygienic measures are rigorously followed, there is always the possibility that something escapes during food production. It’s more, A vegan food can have traces of egg and milk!

  • Nutritional table

On the other hand, the nutritional table is another of the information that we find on the labels. Here is the contribution of the food, the amount of nutrients per 100 grams of food.

That is, the proportions of total and saturated fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, salt, energy value… are stipulated.

Sometimes in nutritional tables we find subcategories such as

  • “…of which sugars”

In this case, these are total sugars, which are added as another ingredient in the food itself. And, we must know, we naturally find sugars in foods. For example, in the case of milk, we discovered a very recognized name… lactose.

  • “Per portion”

On some other occasions, we distinguish a second columnparallel to the previously mentioned, in which the proportion per portion is determined, no matter how redundant it may be.

And normally in the nutritional table we find a value that refers to the consumption of 100 grams/ml of the product. But what if the amount corresponding to a serving is different?

Although it does not always appear (since it is not mandatory), it is easier for the consumer to study what to buy and what not to buy when guided by the nutritional values ​​based on an individual serving.

But in short, Everything has to appear, following a specific order and meeting the requirements stipulated by legislation. Although, if the space is reduced, we can find the information in a linear way.

What foods are exempt?

The Nestlé expert explains that not all foods are required to have these specifications on their nutritional labels.

There are some cases where nutrition labels are not a requirement!

The exceptions are counted:

  1. Products not packaged.
  2. Untransformed or cured.
  3. With a only ingredient.
  4. Like water, salt, spices.

Those, who for their sizedo not have the necessary space for it to appear (like individual butters).

The only thing left is to incorporate what we have learned into our purchasing routine.

(With information from EFE)