What's common between a bag of chips and a packaged tea-time cake? They're both considered to be junk food. Junk food is a term given to foods that have a low nutritional value and high calorific value. Junk food has an addictive nature because of its flavour; but it does not have any such healthy impact on the human body. On the other hand, it causes weight gain, increases the risk of hypertension and heart disease and can cause lifestyle diseases too. This is why it is always advised to read and understand the food labels while buying any type of packaged meal.
Here Are 4 Points To Be Kept In Mind While Buying Packaged Food:
1. Serving Size:
Every food label has a serving size mentioned on it. While some types of packed food have one serving, others may contain more than one serving. The rest of the information on the label is listed with respect to this serving size. For example, the nutritional facts listed on a box of juice may be according to a serving size of 100ml. However. The box may contain 200ml. Thus, if you were to drink the whole box of juice, you would be consuming double the calories listed on the box.
2. Types of Nutrients Contained:
Calories on a packed snack are categorised as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, sugar, vitamins and minerals. These levels are usually measured in terms of grams. Carbohydrates are made up of starch, sugar and dietary fiber. This acts as a source of direct energy but except for fiber, it can also raise blood sugar levels. Ideally, you should pick packed snacks with 1-2g fiber per serving and low sugar levels i.e., less than 10g/100g.
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Next, you need to see the fat content. To differentiate between unhealthy and healthy packaged snacks for kids, you should pay special attention to saturated fat levels per serving. Pick foods that have a low saturated fat content. If the snack has less than 1.5 grams of saturated fat per 100g, it may be listed as containing no saturated fats. However, it's important to note that if you have more than 1 serving, the saturated fat content can add up.
You should also look at the trans-fat levels. These fats increase bad cholesterol levels while lowering good cholesterol levels. Pick foods that have less than one gram or zero trans fats.
Another element you should pay attention to is sodium levels. Sodium is the main component of salt. If the label mentions 100 mg of sodium, the snack contains about 250 mg of salt. To stay healthy, you should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, as per WHO.
3. Recommended Dietary Allowance or RDA
While shopping for packaged foods, it is essential to check the RDA values on nutrition labels as these indicate the amounts of fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and energy you need, based on your age, gender and lifestyle or activity level. So, you will be able to gauge if a certain food item for example has more fat per serving than what is appropriate for you.
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For instance, according to ICMR, men who do sedentary work need 2110 Kcal of energy and 54g of protein per day. Women who do heavy work need 2720 Kcal of energy and 46g of protein per day. In children, boys between the age of 10 and 12 years need 2220 Kcal of energy, while girls of the same age need 2060 Kcal.
4. Healthy Nutrients or Goodies
Your body needs proteins to build muscles and a combination of different vitamins and minerals. This includes iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and Vitamins A, B, C, D, etc. Picking snacks with high levels of these nutrients is hence a healthy choice.
To make a wiser choice about the food you are consuming, always read the food label carefully. If you need a special diet or suffer from conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure, being able to understand food labels can help you compare different snacks and choose the healthier variant.
About Author: Mr. Amarpreet Singh Anand is the Founder & CEO at Superfoods Valley
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