5 Things To Keep In Mind While Buying Packed Foods
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Most packaged foods are considered junk food as they have low nutritional value and high caloric value. Mainly junk foods are addictive in nature because of their flavour. Hardly anybody doesn’t like eating the sweet, fatty, and tasty food that can be found almost everywhere. Besides, junk food does not have a healthy impact on the human body. 

Junk food, on the other hand, causes weight gain, increases the risk of hypertension and heart disease, and causes lifestyle diseases too. Items like processed cheese, packaged juice in tetra packs, ready-to-eat foods which can be consumed straight out of the pack belong to the junk food category and they are deficient in nutrition. 

In India, there are several packaged foods available at local stores as well as supermarkets. These packed foods include frozen foods, instant cup noodles, processed dry fruit mixtures, snack items, etc. We might have often indulged in snacks like potato chips, Little Hearts biscuits, namkeens like processed sev, mixtures, and bhujia, or sweets like laddoos, barfis, pedas, and soan papdi as teatime snacks or just to munch on something while travelling. These foods are often high in sodium, contain additives and preservatives, and lack nutritional value. Despite knowing the harm, they would cause to our health when consumed regularly, we might often crave and end up bingeing on them. 

Although you can have junk food once in a while to satisfy the cravings, it should be in small amounts. It is good to be health conscious, and it is thus advisable to read and understand the food labels while buying any type of packaged food. 

Check out the points that need to be kept in mind while buying packaged foods: 

  • Serving Size  

On every pack of food, the serving size is mentioned. Some foods are meant for serving only one, while others are meant for serving more. The rest of the information is listed according to the serving size. For example: On the nutritional label of a box of juice, it may mention a serving size of 100 ml. This is ideal for one person. However, another box may contain a serving size of 200 ml. Thus, if you drink the juice, you’ll consume double the calories listed in the box. A bottle of Frooti has a minimum of 200 ml serving size, which means you’re consuming double the calories. 

  • Types Of Nutrients Contained 

Calories on the packaged food label are classified as carbohydrates, fats, protein, fats, sugar, vitamins, and minerals. These levels are usually measured in grams. Carbohydrates are made of starch, sugar, and dietary fibres. This can act as a source of direct energy other than fibre. However, this can also raise blood sugar levels. Moreover, it is good if you pick packed snacks with 1-2 grams of fibre per serving and a low blood sugar level that is less than 10 grams or 100 grams. 

Next, you should look at the fat content. To differentiate between unhealthy and healthy-packed snacks for kids, you should keep an eye on the saturated fat levels per serving. Pick foods that have a low saturated fat content. If the snack has less than 1.5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams, it may be regarded as containing no saturated fat. However, if you have more than one serving at a time, the saturated fat content may add up. 

You should also take a look at the trans-fat level. These fats increase the bad cholesterol level while lowering the good cholesterol level. Pick foods that have less than 1 gram or zero trans-fats. 

You should pay attention to sodium levels. Sodium is the main component of salt. If the label mentions 100 mg of sodium, it means the snack contains 250 grams of salt. According to the WHO, one must not consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. 

For example: If we take a packet of chips, it contains 10.9 grams of total fats, 15.5 grams of carbohydrates, 0.8 grams sugar and 2.1 grams protein. Besides, the sodium content is 143 mg. Thus, it is advisable to have only one packet of chip occasionally. 

  • Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA  

If you’re planning to eat packaged foods, it is necessary to keep a check on the RDA levels on nutrition labels. RDA levels indicate the amount of fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and energy you need based on your age, gender, and lifestyle or activity level. Thus, you’ll be able to understand if a certain food item has more fat per serving than what you actually require.   

According to the ICMR, men who are occupied with sedentary work need 2110 Kcal of energy and 54 grams of protein per day, while women who do heavy work need 2720 Kcal of energy and 46 grams of protein per day. Boys who are between the ages of 10 and 12 need 2220 Kcal of energy, while girls of the same age require 2060 Kcal of energy. 

For example: Britannia’s Little Hearts contributes 486 Kcal of energy with 7.4 grams of protein.  

  • Healthy Nutrients Or Goodies  

To build muscles, your body needs protein and a combination of different vitamins and minerals. This includes iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and Vitamins A, B, C, D, etc. Thus, picking up packed food with these high levels of nutrients might be a healthy choice. 

  • Shelf Life

The labels of the packed food shows either best before date or expiry date. Best before date suggest that when the food stored in proper condition, it would be of good quality till that date. It might be edible after that date but might not have the same quality or nutrition. Expiry Date means it should not be consumed after the specific date due to health and safety reasons.