In the early 1990s, FDA in the United States implemented food labels and started regulating what goes on the label as a part of mandatory food packaging. Two decades later, most people have noticed the change and have actually started reading what’s on there but are we really reading it right? It is not hard to get lost in the maze that the food industry traps us in by concealing a few things by a mere subtle representation. They might throw in a number like 20 calories on a box of super-fried chips and make you feel they are not that bad. What one fails to notice more than often is the serving size. Those 20 calories might be just from 4 pieces (`10g) of chips while you are most likely to consume the whole packet/box amassing 500 calories at once.
Next, it is not always the calories that count, but also how you get them. Saturated fat is a strict NO-NO. And even if you don’t quite understand the ingredients and which side of the good and bad equation they fall in, here is what a quick glance can tell you. What you really got to look at is its ingredients. The longer the name and harder it is to pronounce it, the more likely it is harmful for you, because it is artificial and chemically synthesized, probably only to alter taste or increasing its shelf life.
Also on the label among other things is the sodium information. If a can of soup or broth has 40% of sodium in 1 serving size, there are 2 ways how this can go so wrong. Firstly, this information is mostly based on a 2000 or 2500 calories a day diet, which is sometimes more than what is required for most of us, so again the real numbers on the nutrients would be even higher. Secondly, their serving sizes are mostly underestimated and you tend to consume much more in a single meal. For instance, even if you consumed that soup twice during that same day, you have already taken more than 80% of sodium that you are supposed to consume in 1 day, just from that 1 soup. Unless you starved or this was the only food that went in you body that day, you have already consumed a lot more sodium that what is good for you, and what is worse is that you will never even realize it.
Sometimes those numbers are even given as % representations. While a 0% fat would make you feel it is healthy, you should understand the reasoning behind it being shown that way. Not only are these numbers based on portion sizes, if they are represented as %, which comes out to be say 0.8% of the total calories, it will still be written as 0 and not rounded to 1. That does not make it free from fat or whatever that number denotes, that’s just a smart way of putting the numbers. It is common nowadays to find whole wheat bread nowadays, and since the food companies know what their customers are looking for, most of the breads today are sold as whole wheat or 100% whole wheat. If you look closely or read the labels, you will find what else it really has, and even more, if you look at its total protein in grams or its fiber content, you might be able to distinguish 1 type from another. With the kind of commercialization and marketing that goes on currently, even a PhD in biochemistry might not be sufficient to really figure out what you are eating, but one can at least try. No one forces you to buy the cheapest, or the packet with the most colorful packaging or your favorite sports hero endorsing it. If you want to do it right, all you got to do is read the label and separate the bad from worse.