Food provides nutrients to the body that are needed for its growth and development. Eating healthy does not imply cutting back or banning your favorite foods. Balancing your food choices and giving your baby the right portions is all it takes.
A package is a container to deliver safe, wholesome, nutritious food to consumers. These packages are always marked with labels.It is important for parents to read these labels correctly to find out which foods are good for their babies.
Being Careful About Food Labels before Buying
Labels carry product specific information. You should carefully read the label and buy the product. The following are some of the things that you should be a careful about while buying the product for you or your family.
A principle display panel (PDP) is a part of a label that is read by a consumer during the purchase of a product. As you look at the front of the package, the entire surface area that you can see is referred to as the face or principal display panel.The principal display panel must contain certain information in a specific order or location and be of specific type size. Although a brand name may appear on the principal display panel, this is voluntary.
Date of expiry: This should be the first thing that you look at when you are buying a product. The date of expiry tells you about the life of the product and the time that it can be used in. Try to buy a product that is not close to its expiry date. The best before declaration tells you about the time duration in which the product should be used safely.
Date of Manufacture: the date of manufacture tells you about the date that the product was manufactured on. You should choose a pack that is recently manufactured.
Ingredient List: Ingredient list is an integral part of the label. The ingredient list starts with the food used in largest quantity to make the product to ingredients used in smallest quantity in preparation. You should read the ingredient list to check if your baby is allergic to certain things like eggs, gluten, nuts, lactose etc.
The ingredients list will also talk about the preservatives used if any , any artificial/ natural flavours or any other additives used in the food.
Veg/ Non Veg Symbol : The presence of a red or a green dot in a square, tells you whether the product is a vegetarian product or a non vegetarian product. This helps in distinguishing products that your baby might be allergic to e.g. egg or the foods that you avoid.
Net Weight: the Net weight talks about the total grams of the product. The package weight should not be inclusive of the weight of the container.
Directions of use: the method of preparation is also an important part of the label. In case of products where in you need to know how to reconstitute the foods, reading the method of preparation becomes important. Always read the pack for instructions so that you learn about how to use the product well.
The nutritional label helps you understand the nutrients contained in the food product that are beneficial for your body. The nutritional label can be found on the pack along with the nutritional value of various nutrients. The nutritional label of the package should be correct and should be able to justify the claims made.
Nutrition claims describes the level of a nutrient contained in a food e.g. high in fibre, low in fat etc. A nutrition claim may describe the physiological function of the nutrient in the growth and development of the body.
In general, all foods must contain the minimum nutritional information per 100 g or 100 ml per serving of the product. The nutritional label must contain the nutritional values of energy, protein, carbohydrates – sugar and fat, it can also contain the values of other nutrients which have been used as claims i.e. a food claimed to be enriched with nutrients such as minerals, proteins or vitamins shall give the quantities of such added nutrients on the label.
The points you should keep in mind while reading the nutritional label are:
Serving size: Always read the recommended serving size or portion size of the package. The serving size tells you about the single serve amount of food eg 1 cup, 2 biscuits or 30 g of chips. Serving size is usually placed at the top of the nutritional label, sometimes if the entire packet is one serve, there is no mention of the serving size.
Calories: Calorie is the unit that represents energy. Calories can be high for the entire pack size but for a specific portion, they may be less. Sometimes, calories from fat are also mentioned, since fat is a source of energy it tells you the about the energy that you receive from fat for a particular food.
Protein: The nutrition label talks about the protein content found in the product as well.
Total Carbohydrates: This indicates the total carbohydrates present in the product. Always look for sugar and fibre percentages under total carbohydrates. Choose foods low in sugar and high in fibre.
Sugar: It is a concentrated source of energy that provides empty calories. Excessive sugar intake by your baby results in childhood obesity if not managed properly.
Total Fat: This tells you the amount of fat in the product. Check out the type of fat that the product contains and also look for the amount of cholesterol displayed on the package. You should ideally limit this nutrient as too much of fat in your baby’s diet may lead to obesity and other problems later in life.
Vitamin & mineral content: in the label you will see various nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. Choose products that are rich in these nutrients as they are beneficial for the body.
Make Intelligent Use of Food Labels: Food labels do not guide you towards what your baby should eat. They just share the values of various ingredients present in the product. Use these values to decide the optimum amounts of specific foods your baby needs to consume in accordance with her diet, so as to fulfill her nutritional needs and to ensure her optimum growth.