“Mastering Food Labels: Key Dates Demystified”

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A young women standing and checking a food labels of packed food in grocery store while shopping.

After the pandemic, everyone wants to move towards healthy living, but most people need to learn how to check and determine which product is for them or which is not.

You can only judge the food by their food labels. Still, unfortunately, most people don’t know how to understand food labels, which information on food labels you all have to check before buying anything and which you can ignore.

Importance Of food labels

The power of food labels:

When you want to buy any packaged food item, the food label becomes your best guide to inform you whether the particular product you choose to purchase will fulfil your nutritional expectations or not.

Food labels tell you about the nutritional value of the specific product, which helps you to make wise and healthy choices.

Crack the code: Decoding nutritional claims:

Some relevant and nutritional terms you saw on food labels like low fat, sugar-free, organic and more, but what do they mean? Let’s find out.

women checking a nutritional facts label on her tablet.

Low fat:

It shows that specific food contains low or less fat content compared to similar products.


It simply means there is no sugar present in the particular product.

Caution: You should also check the other source the brand uses in the product as an alternative to sugar.


It means the particular product produced without synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Whole grain:

This term indicates that the product includes the entire grain, which has three parts bran, germ and endosperm. Whole grains contain more fibre as compared to refined grains.


It is the outer layer of whole grains filled with fibre, b vitamins and minerals.


It’s the part of whole grains as it helps nourish the grains, and it’s packed with many antioxidants.


It is the middle layer of the whole grain and contains starchy carbs, some proteins and vitamins.


This term tells us that artificial additives and preservatives are not present in the product. Although we need to remember that the word “natural” is not strictly regulated.


I understand that gluten can be a concern for some people. It’s a protein commonly found in wheat, barley, and rye.

However, gluten-free products that don’t contain any gluten from these sources are available In the market.

You can still enjoy your favourite meals without worrying about gluten.

Always keep an eye on the ingredient list or gluten-free certifications to ensure that the brand is not added gluten to the product.

Here are some ingredients and terms that may indicate the presence of gluten:

The ingredient comes from barley, which has gluten. Be mindful of products containing malted barley, malt extract, malt flavouring, and malt syrup.

Modified food starch:

There are various sources of deriving modified food starch, including gluten-containing grains; until it’s written on a product, The most reliable way to confirm whether a product is gluten-free or not is to check with the manufacturer.

Alternatively, you can look for products that specify they are gluten-free.

Hydrolyzed wheat protein and vegetable protein:

Avoiding wheat-based ingredients is advisable for your safety since they may contain gluten.


This term indicates that the product does not contain any genetically modified organisms.

Simply put, the product does not undergo any chemical modification to increase its nutritional value or shelf life.

It assures that the ingredients used to make a particular product are free from genetic modification.

Serving sizes and portions:

To clarify, I’ll provide an example:

When considering consuming potato chips, the package recommends a serving size of 1 ounce, approximately 15 chips. However, eating more than the recommended serving size is common unintentionally.
In this situation, Assume you eat about 3 ounces, roughly a handful, of chips. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires paying close attention to serving sizes and portions.

It is essential to pay attention to the serving size on food labels. If the packaging says a per serving has 150 calories, eating three servings instead of one will give you 450 calories.

Awareness of these details can significantly affect weight loss or body fat reduction goals.

The scoop on food labels:

Now let’s try to understand the critical components of food labels:

Nutritional facts or value:

This table is usually present on the back of the food packaging. This table provides information about macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats), vitamins, minerals, fibre, sodium, and how much sugar is present per serving.

Ingredients list:

The ingredient list shows the components used to make a specific product, with the first item mentioned being the main ingredient utilized in production.

Allergen information:

This information indicated that if anyone has an ingredient allergy, don’t consume this.

In this category, some ingredients are mentioned, like soy, gluten, and nuts which means those who have an allergy to these products should not consume the product.

It is the brand’s responsibility to state this information on the packaging clearly.

Date labels:

Best by:

The date on the product signifies when it is at its best in terms of taste, texture, and freshness. It is safe to consume after this date, but the flavour and freshness may not be as optimal as expected.

Use by:

This date mentioned on the food labels indicates that the particular product is unsafe to consume after this, but if you finish that, you will suffer from food poisoning or other stomach problems.

Sell by:

This is the last date for selling the product by retailers.

Wise decision-making:

young girl reading a food label of packed food in grocery store while shopping

Let’s grab some additional knowledge about food labels; with the help of this, you can make good choices.

Prioritize essential nutrients:

It would help if you focused on the primary nutrients on the food labels, like fibre, vitamins, minerals and macronutrients.

Compare similar products:

Compare different brands’ food labels and choose lower saturated fats, sugar and sodium options.

Spot hidden sugars and unhealthy fat:

Avoid the terms in food labels or ingredient lists like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or trans fats.

Be cautious of additives and preservatives:

Always avoid any artificial colours, preservatives and additives in your product.

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