Reading nutrition labels on packed foods- A smart puzzle to healthy life

  • Priya Karkera

    Pediatric Nutritionist, BSc, Post Graduate in Nutrition and Dietetics, PhD (Std)

  • Posted On April 10, 2017

Playing games is the favorite pass time for all kids especially for young children when introduced to the world of games. Reading nutrition labels for children is one such puzzle that not only can intrigue a child to take interest in, but can help parents inculcate the sense of right and wrong foods into their young ones, surely at a very young age.

What are nutrition labels?

Nutrition labels are small printed tabular charts seen on every packaged food that give detailed information about nutrients contained in that food. Parents must obtain knowledge of each of the nutrients displayed on the nutrition label so that they can teach children the importance of reading nutrition labels.

At FitterFly, our child nutritionists have some quick tips to ensure that learning food labels becomes an easy game for your child

  • Understanding serving units and serving size:
    • Many nutrients weigh in grams and milligrams denoted as “g” and “mg” on the nutrition label.While many other nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron are given in percentages (%) indicating % of nutrient present per 100g of the food product.
    • Another term to understand is Percent Daily Value which helps a reader to meet their daily goals and is thus based on a 2000 calorie diet and accordingly calculates nutrient requirements for an individual.
    • The term serving size at the top of every nutrition label is the amount of food that is ideally consumed in one serving and the nutrients listed below are listed per 100g or as per serving size. Eg. 1 cup of cereal, 1 oz(28g) of beef, serving per container etc.
  • Reading food labels while shopping in a supermarket:
    • Fiber and Sugar - Spot the Good and the Bad:While teaching how to read food labels, a parent must pick up two boxes with different food labels to compare sugar and fiber content of food. Children must knowthe difference between the two so that they are able to understand importance of each of these for a healthy living. Though sugar is essential to give energy during play time but excess consumption of sugar may also cause obesity and dental caries. On the other hand, fiber helps improve digestion and healthy intestine function. This basic understanding may assist a child to make healthy choices by choosing cereals with high fiber content.
    • Good vs Bad fat:Parents can help children understand saturated and trans fats are harmful sources of fat and cause heart disease. Reading out terms like saturated fats, trans fats and total fats from your child’s cookies and chocolates helps your kid understand the basic difference between good and bad sources of fat. Parents could also play a game with young children to spot out sources of bad fat from a pack of snacks or from a set of more than two nutrition labels. Older children can also be taught about terms like monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats which are good sources of fat and intake of these help prevent diseases in the body.
    • Save you child from allergies: Food labels with ingredients like corn syrup, allergen information like added tree nuts, soya, etc are important ingredients that need to be brought to a child’s notice. This may help a child make safe food choices especially if he is allergic to specific food allergens. Parents must also read out foods containing high fructose, corn or artificial flavorings as they are harmful ad intake of these ingredients in excess may pose harm to the body.
  • Understanding nutrients mentioned on the food label:
    • Calculate nutrients: While pouring out your child’s favorite corn flakes in the snack bowl, parents must read out the number of calories, protein, fat and dietary fiber from the nutrition label of the cereal box. Comparing your child’s intake of food servings with the amount suggested as per percent daily value can help your child make a conscious effort to not exceed above the suggested amounts per serving of food.
    • Highlight other nutrients: Help your child understand nutrients like dietary fiber, vitamin A, calcium and iron mentioned on food labels and the role they play to make their body strong and active.
    • Reinforce learning: Repeated efforts of reading food labels with appropriate basic understanding of each of the nutrients mentioned on the food label help children register their importance at a very young age.
    • Pick on low salt: Teaching children to pick foods with low sodium is essential. Explaining them the importance of less intake of salt to stay healthy can help your child avoid picking salted pretzels and chips at snack time and on their way back home.
    • Go protein friendly: Protein content of the food from different food labels must be highlighted. Parents must ensure children understand the need of high protein in diet for building muscles and strong growth of bones during stages of development. Children will make a genuine effort to pick on foods rich in protein to excel with their peers in sports and other activities when explained about advantages of having high protein in diet.

Take Home Message:

  • Parents must concentrate on only one to two aspects at a time while reading out food labels to avoid boredom associated to detailed information.
  • Engage in fun activities with your children while shopping, cooking and sharing nutritional information about foods.
  • A daily activity of reading food labels can help a child develop a conscious habit of choosing healthy snacks over unhealthy junk foods, at the time of purchasing foods without parental guidance.
About Fitterfly:

Fitterfly is a wellness company run by doctors, nutritionists and wellness experts with an aim to empower people with knowledge and tools for good health. Our qualified Nutritionists at Fitterfly provide detailed customized guidance according to your child’s age, health condition, cuisine and personal preferences. To know more download and use ‘Fitterfly’ app from play store or app store or write to us at nutrition@fitterfly.com or just call us at +917045065225

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Disclaimer: All information here, including text, images, tables, videos and any other content is for your knowledge only and we do not guarantee any specific result by following these recommendations as it may vary from person to person. The information is not a substitute for qualified medical advice from a doctor or other medical health expert.