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How can I know if the contents of packaged foods are healthy?

Understanding packaged food nutrition labels is a good way to become a smart shopper and improve your pantry hygiene. It is a simple, yet very effective tool to help you make healthy food choices.

Packaged foods can have several labels printed or stuck on them, including front-of-package (FOP), best-by and use-by dates, nutrition facts, list of ingredients, a vegetarian/non-vegetarian declaration, allergy warnings, weight of the contents, etc.

Look for and understand the key features of nutrition facts label, and the ingredients label to become a savvy shopper.

Key elements of the nutrition facts label include:

  • Serving Size and Calories which are bolded and are in larger font

  • The amount of “Added Sugars” specified underneath Total Sugars

  • Total Calories, and the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber

Here’s what’s important about the ingredients label:

  • Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, i.e. the first ingredient listed is always present in the largest amount. This information is useful when comparing products.

  • Fats, sugars and salt are sometimes listed by the less commonly known variants of their names. For example: sugars are also referred to as liquid glucose, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, castor sugar, while salt is also referred to as sodium, etc.


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