By Rajeshwari Shelke  on: 02 July 2018
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In today's scenario, learning how to read food labels on packed food or processed can help you make healthier choices. Because every person nowadays wants to find out one or other easy way to get his work done, the same thing is applied to his food habits as well. He goes for more easily available processed, fast food, or junk food in order to satisfy his hunger. While doing this he forgets about his health & put himself at risk for disorder & disease like obesity, diabetes, hypertension etc. Hence, in order to avoid this, it's very important to understand few basic things while buying, eating any kind of processed food. It’s a need of an hour to unprocess your processed life.

So you may ask what process food is.

The term processed food includes any food that has been purposely changed in some way prior to consumption e.g. Maggi, biscuits, bread, cakes, pastries etc.

Following are few key points one should check on processed foods.


Product ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest amount.A good rule of thumb is to scan the first 3 ingredients because they are the largest portion. If these first 3 ingredients include refined grains, any kind of sugar or trans-fat oils, you can make sure that product is unhealthy for you. Hence, try to opt for food items that have whole foods listed as the first 3 ingredients& another rule is if the ingredients list is longer than 2 to 3 lines then consider that the product is highly processed.

  •   CHECK FOR MSG (Monosodium glutamate or Ajinomoto): This is generally added in most of the instant noodles, Chinese foods or other packed food. It acts as taste enhancer when it is consumed in high quantity may cause a health risk. It should be avoided in pregnancy as it may cause neural tube defect in babies
  • SODIUM CHECK: USDA guidelines recommend consuming using less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day but most of the processed foods like canned soups, pickles, instant noodles, frozen foods are generally high in salt as are most restaurant dishes.



Following are the most common claims.

Low-calorie: These products have to contain 1/3 fewer calories than the original product original.

Low-carb: low-carb diets do help with improved health. But on the contrary, processed foods that are labeled low-carb are usually just processed junk foods, just like processed low-fat junk foods.

Multigrain: It sounds to be healthy, but generally it just means that there is more than one type of grain in the product. They are mostly refined grains, until & unless the product is marked as whole grain.

No added sugar: Few products are naturally high in sugar. So it doesn’t really mean healthy they just don’t have added sugar & unhealthy sugar substitutes may also have been added.

Natural: This does not mean that the product resembles anything natural. It just means that at some point the manufacturer has added a natural source (, strawberry etc) to work with.

Made with whole grain: It probably says that there is very less whole grain in the product. It’s important to check first three ingredients; if not in first three then it’s in very negligible amount.

Fortified or enriched: It means that some nutrients have been added to the product. For example, Vit E added in oil or Vit D to milk.

Fruit-flavored: Most of the products refer as natural fruit flavor, but in reality, there will be no fruit, it just refer as natural fruit flavor,  there will be no fruit, it just has chemicals designed to taste like fruit.

Zero trans-fat: It means "less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving." So if serving sizes are misleadingly small, the product can actually contain a lot of Tran’s fat.

  • SUGAR WITH DIFFERENT NAMES: Sugar appears by different names in ingredient lists, many of which we may not recognize. These include cane sugar, invert sugar, corn sweetener, dextran, molasses, malt syrup, and maltose and evaporated cane juice. So choose wisely before buying.


Hence it’s very obvious that the best way to avoid being getting fooled or mislead by food labels is to restrict or avoid processed food whenever & wherever it is possible & choose wisely while buying them as, all food products which you shop are not unhealthy. However, it’s always better to go for natural & whole foods on daily basis for good health.

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Rajeshwari  Shelke

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Nutritionist/ Dietician,Lifestyle educator , India 

Rajeshwari  Shelke
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