How to Read Food Labels

Blog By – Vaishali Khanna – BFY Faculty

We always want the best for us and our family. When your child insists on having a particular snack, you want to ensure that it is healthy for him. You simply need to pick the product, turn it around and read the food label. Food labels are usually ignored, but then Food Safety and Standards Authority of India put that up mandatory for a reason.

Reading Food Labels: Nutrition Facts

  1. Serving size: The food label begins with the mention of serving size. Serving size denotes the quantity of one normal portion consumed by a person. The total weight of the pack should not be considered as the normal serving size.
    For instance, the total weight of a chips packet is 100 gm and the serving size is 25 gm, then it denotes only handful of chips as one serving. If you consume more than this, then you are eating more calories.
  2. Number of servings:This figure indicates how many servings the entire pack can cater to. For instance, if the serving size of a cereal pack is 150 gm, then a 450 gm pack can serve three servings.




  1. Calories per serving:The nutrients are mostly specified on the ideal adult intake of calories, i.e. approx. 1800 calories. Calories per serving indicate the amount of calories you will obtain from one serving. For instance 150 calories from one serving of 200 gm, then 300 calories from the entire pack of 400 gm.
  2. Calories from fat:This specifies how many calories from the product intake come from the fat. For instance, Calories from fat (one serving of 150 gm) = 20, then consuming the entire pack (300 gm) will denote intake of 40 calories from fat.

Reading Food Labels For Fat

  • Total fats:This figure denotes the total amount of fats present in the product. It may be specified for the total net weight of the pack or per serving.
  • Saturated fats:They increase the level of cholesterol in blood. Products containing palm oil, coconut oil contain high amounts of saturated fats. Various dairy products, butter, cheese, meat, chicken etc. are sources of saturated fats.
  • Trans fats:Also known as partially hydrogenated oil or hydrogenated oil. In plain words, this functions as a cheap alternative to butter. A very common form of fat that increases bad cholesterol. These are mostly added to increase the durability of the product.

Often found in breads, snacks ,baked food and dairy products.

  • Unsaturated fats:These fats are good for the body as they lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing coronary heart diseases. Look for products which are low in saturated fats and trans fat.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids:They are required for the body for proper functioning such as tissue building, blood clotting and fighting inflammation. If you spot Omega-3 and Omega-6, this indicates polyunsaturated fatty acids. Other sources include un-hydrogenated soy bean oil, canola oil, flax seeds and walnuts
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids:Another type of fat which is good for the body, but only in the sense that these should be preferred over saturated fats and trans fat. Most nuts contain these. You may want to consider products made in olive oil or groundnut oil as a source of monounsaturated fats


Reading Labels For Cholesterol and Sodium

  1. Cholesterol:It clogs arteries and increases the risk of heart attack. Many products are now available with 0 mg cholesterol. However keep an eye on trans fat and sugar
  2. Sodium:Depending on the age, the amount of salt intake should be reduced. Too much salt increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, kidney disease and bloating. Packaged food contain very high content of sodium.


Reading Labels For Carbohydrates and Sugar

  • Carbohydrates:Carbohydrates are an instant source of energy for the body. They can instantly spike the level of blood sugar. So if you have any medical condition such as diabetes or sedentary lifestyle, you may want to take these in moderate amounts only
  • Sugar:Sugar also provides energy to the body. The American Heart Association has recommended a daily limit of sugar to be no more than 6 teaspoons (approx. 18 gm), i.e. approx. 100 calories.