5 steps to read a label quickly and easily

Postdate: 25 October 2017

To read a label, it is important to know what to look out for. This blog has a quick label check with 5 steps.

1. Look at the amounts
The volume for fluids is indicated in litre or millilitre, and for mass, it is often described in grams. Based on this, you can calculate the portion sizes. Sometimes you already get the number of portions in one package.

2. Study the ingredients
Here you will find a list of ingredients the product is made with, including the ingredients that are known to cause possible allergic reactions (such as peanuts, eggs, and fish). These are called allergens. The first ingredient in the list is the one that takes up the biggest part of the product. The substances that give fragrance and flavour are called aromas. Additives are the E-numbers. These are added to improve or change the product, such as preservatives, to give the product a longer shelf life. According to the Dutch Commodities Act, aromas are not additives and, therefore, have no E-number.

3. Check the shelf life
The terms 'use by...' and 'best before...' are often confused. 'Use by...' is mainly used for perishable food products such as fish, meat, and fresh juices. Products that have 'best before...' on their packaging, such as herbs, grains, some types of dairy, and pasta, can be stored for a much longer period. Even after this date, you can often still eat the product although the taste and texture may change.

4. Find the nutritional value
The nutritional value table describes the energy and nutrients of a product. The most important ones you will find are: proteins, (un)saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates, fibres, kilocalories, sodium (salt), added sugars, vitamins, and minerals. The nutritional value is indicated per 100 grams or per 100 millilitres. On the front of the package, you can often see at a glance what the ratios are per average portion.

5. Read the storage advice
Below the nutritional value, you will find the storage advice, such as storing it in a chilled, dry, or dark environment. This will help the product to keep its optimal taste and shelf life.

It is not just important to focus on calories, but also on sugars and fats. Trans fats are even more damaging than saturated fat. Besides the common name 'sugar', other names are used that are sugars in disguise; according to the Dutch Consumers Association, there are more than 50. Nearly everything that ends in -ose, such as glucose, but also syrups, are types of sugars.


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