Food labels can influence your calorie intake, finds study

Food labels

Food labels are working in favour of the consumers as they are found to be affecting their consumption of nutrients, calories, and fats. It has been found by recent research that consumers are making healthier food choices, after reading food labels. The study conducted by a research team from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

One of the authors of the study Darius Mozaffarian was quoted as saying, “Many old and new food policies focus on labelling, whether on food packages or restraint menus. Remarkably, the effectiveness of these labels, whether for changing consumers’ choices or industry product formulations, has not been clear. Our findings provide new evidence on what might work, and what might not when implementing food labelling.”

The findings suggest that due to labelling, there has been a reduction in the consumers’ calorie intake by 6.6 per cent, fat consumption by 10.6 per cent and other unhealthy food items by 13 per cent. Vegetable consumption was also observed to have increased by 13.5 per cent. Additionally, researchers also found a 64.3 per cent and 8.9 per cent reduction in both trans-fat and sodium in packaged foods.

Other aspects like label placements and types were also studied but no important effects were found on the packaging, nutrient content and other points of purchase. It was concluded that only the presence or absence of information made the difference to the consumers and industry.

The most important aspect of reading a food label properly is to know exactly what to look for. Making a healthy purchase becomes easy when you are well-versed with the food label glossary. Here is what you should look for:

Calories:
Anything that you eat will add calories, be it fats, carbs, or proteins. Hence, start by making a note of the total number of calories per serving a particular food contains. You can look for more food labelling information on FDA’s website.

Serving size:
Consider understanding this point as a foundation for decoding the other steps in reading a food label. It refers to the total number of servings per container. This helps you decide on the portion you want to consume ( ½ serving, 1 serving or more). Many manufacturers, however, misrepresent this information on food labels.

Fat:
Fats carry more calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins. All fats provide 9 calories per gram to be specific. While reading a food label, hunt for information on trans fat and terms like ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated’ as they indicate that the product contains trans fats. Choosing unsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats is strongly recommended.

Sugar:
Sugar is the biggest culprit behind many of your health ailments.  Terms like ‘high fructose corn syrup’, ‘dextrose’, ‘invert sugar’, etc. often indicate sugar content in a product. Choosing foods with sugar less than ‘5 grams per serving’ will help control calories while.

Ingredient List:
In a food label, the sequence of the ingredients points out their concentration in the product. This information is primarily beneficial for buyers who look for a specific ingredient before buying a product either to avoid certain allergies or to enjoy a preferred taste.