How to Read Food Labels
The ingredients on food labels are the most important items you will read on a product. Some are so small you can barely read without glasses.
Reading labels are confusing and very misleading. It’s no wonder most people don’t read the small print. Most people don't read food labels, just the large front labels, exactly what manufacturing and food industry wants you to read.
Here are just some examples of what you see on the front labels: fortified with calcium, nutritional, help reduces cholesterol, no fat, low sodium, no artificial coloring and the list goes on.
You need to understand and interpret these ingredients and nutrition information on food labels before going shopping. You need to know if the products have any added ingredients such as
If the list of ingredients is long, the product will have no doubt food additives in the product, and you're risking your health by eating it. When you read a label and see “spices”, “no artificial ingredients”, “no preservatives”, “all natural ingredients” and “real fruit flavors” -- BEWARE!!
Statements like this DO NOT mean there are no harmful ingredients in the product. The manufacturer hopes you'll think there are no harmful ingredients, but as you will see from the following example, it's not true.
Soup example: A well-known soup company has these ingredients in their chicken noodle soup. I typed this right off the label:
Chicken Stock, cooked chicken meat, carrots, enriched egg noodles (wheat flour, egg white solids, whole egg solids, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), celery, water, contains less than 2% of the following ingredients: Modified wheat starch, salt, chicken fat, monosodium glutamate (MSG), modified food starch, sugar, soy protein concentrate, onion powder, flavoring, sodium phosphates, spice extract, dehydrated parsley, chicken flavor (contains chicken stock, chicken powder, chicken fat), dehydrated garlic, spice, beta carotene for color.
Phew!!! 3 mins later.
Here is my chicken noodle soup:
- Organic chicken breast
- Organic Carrots
- Organic Celery
- Sea Salt
- Whole Wheat Extra Wide Noodles
My ingredients in my soup took only 30 seconds
to type and the ingredients of the can soup took over 3 mins
This soup label has a long list of unwanted
that don’t belong in your soup. Here are few explanations of some of the ingredients in this soup:
Here is another example of food labels:
- Thiamine mononitrate (synthetic Vit. B1) – false sense of nutritional value
- MSG – flavor enhancer
- Modified food starch – a thickening agent
- Soy protein concentrate – a filler
- Sodium phosphates - buffer
In this pizza, the list shows that the two biggest ingredients are wheat flour and water. For the other main ingredients, the company gives a percentage (%). The product is 7% tomato, 6% cheese, 5% ham, 5% Pepperoni, 4% Monterey Jack cheese, 3% spicy beef and 2% bacon.
Percentages can sometimes be quite hard to imagine. So here's what they look like in a picture. The long orange rectangle represents all the ingredients in the pizza (the full 100%). The colored bars on the left show you the proportion of the total pizza made up by each type of meat - ham is 5%, Pepperoni is 4%, beef is 3% and bacon is 2%.
UPC Codes on Produce
Do you know what it all means?
Have you ever notice the food labels on your produce – fruit and vegetables? Produce now carry a sticker called “price look-up codes (PLUs). This tells the clerk the price, but not only that, it can help YOU. These stickers tell you how fruits and vegetables were grown. There are more than 1,300 PLU codes currently assigned to produce. Here is what they mean:
You would have either a 4 or 5 digit codes. Below is a chart that will help you identify how produce is grown.
|Starting w/ no. 9
||Starting w/ no. 3 or 4
||Starting w/ no. 8