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Food labels and nutritional panels are present on every packaged food product except, small packets of food and products from the local bakery. They give information about the various ingredients in the food. Nutritional panels are also a part of the food label and tell us about the nutrients present in the food.
Nowadays, many packaged food items are available for babies. These packaged foods make the life of a parent easy and convenient. However since you are buying these items for your baby, it is essential that these items have high nutritional content to facilitate optimal growth.
Reading nutrition panels and food labels is very important because you come to know about how much nutrition your baby would get and would also alert you to the allergens present. .
The following categories are usually mentioned in the nutritional panel:
- Serving size
- Dietary fibre
The food label contains the names of ingredients that are present in the baby food. The ingredients are usually written in percentage form and in the descending order of weight. This means that the ingredient that is mentioned first is present in the highest quantity. However, if an ingredient is present in a very small quantity i.e. less than 5 percent of the total weight, it might not be mentioned in the list.
All the food products have a list of seven nutrients mentioned in the nutritional panels- total fat, saturated fat, energy, total carbohydrates, sodium and sugar. There may other nutrients included as well. By comparing the information present on this panel of various food products, you can choose which one to buy for your baby. This way you can make the healthiest choice.
Things to Look for and Compare in Packaged Food
Carbohydrates, fats and protein provide your baby with the energy required for his daily activities and growth. Lower energy might imply low fat content, which might be a good choice for adults but not for babies. Babies should be given full-fat food items.
2. Fat, Sugar and Salt
These nutrients and ingredients are usually mentioned on food labels under different names. Fats may take the name of cream, vegetable oils, shortening, sour cream, butter, etc while sugar might be present in the form of fructose, glucose, corn syrup, honey, lactose, etc.
3. Food Additives
Many food products contain additives and it is mandatory that all the additives which are present in the food be listed on the food label. Babies might be sensitive to additives like preservatives and artificial colours. These should be read very carefully before buying the food.
Best Before and Expiry Dates
All food products have a shelf life and must not be consumed after the shell life is over. The “best before” and “use by dates” mentioned on the packaging tell us the date before which we should consume the product.
The next time you buy packaged food items for your baby, make sure that you are equipped with all the above information. This way you can make the best nutrition choice for your child.