Grocery Store Tips: How to Read Food Packaging

When you go to the grocery store, you can’t just rush through the aisles and randomly grab your produce. You have to take the extra time to check for the freshness and quality of your food products. Pick brightly colored vegetables and plump looking fruits, and double check for any discoloration and mold. You also need to be mindful when you buy prepackaged products. Make sure the food containers and packing are completely sealed and the safety buttons on bottle caps have not been tempered with. Get into a habit of reading the package labels. There is important information on the labels that indicate the quality of the content and tell you which product is a better choice for your specific dietary need.

Freshness Indicator

Almost all food packaging have a freshness indicator. Prints such as “Made On,” “Best Use By,” “Sell By,” “Expiry Date” and “Use Before” tell you exactly how fresh the product is and how long it’s been on the shelf. Always choose the product with the latest date. Store-baked goods and deli items should be made on the same day. Prepackaged bread, vegetables and salad mixes should be at least 7 days before the “Sell By” date. You should buy milk and egg products that have the longest time margin before their expiration date. Dairy products are known to lose nutrients after they are manufactured. Those that are just out of factories are less likely to inhabit bacteria and are more nutritious than those that are out longer. 

Nutritional Content

Reading the nutritional panel is mandatory for all dieters. It tells you exactly how many calories and how much fat, salt and sugar is in the product, and can help you keep track of your daily nutrient intake. The nutritional panel is the only thing you need to read to find out the precise health value of the product.

When you read the nutritional content, the first thing it shows is the calorie count. Always factor in the serving size. Some food producers can trick you by breaking their product into minuscule serving sizes so that each serving contains fewer calories.

You should also look under the fat content to make sure that the product has no trans fat and contains minimum saturated fat and cholesterol. You also need to consider the sodium and sugar contents. Avoid buying products that have more than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving. If you are a diabetic or have preexisting heart conditions, it becomes even more necessary for you to watch your fat, sodium and sugar intake.

In addition, you should buy the product with the highest health value. Look for the fiber content and choose the product that has the most variety and concentration of vitamins and minerals.

Ingredient List

Though the front of the packaging can have lots of propaganda-type labels that are aimed to attract your attention, the ingredient list reveals the true content of the product. This list is arranged according to the relative concentration of the ingredient in the product. The first three items on this list make up almost 95% of the content. If you have any food allergies, reading this list can also help you decide if the product is safe for ingestion.


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