Learning how to read nutrition labels can help you pursue a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Especially if your diet lacks whole foods and consists mostly of packaged products, reading food labels is the best way for you to keep tabs on your dietary health.
Last year, the FDA announced a few changes to food label formatting that will make how to read nutrition labels more conducive to public health. This guide to understanding nutrition labels will cover some of those changes.
How to Read Nutrition Labels
1. Product Date
Product dates may be listed as “Best If Used By,” “Sell By,” or “Packed On.” These dates may look official, but in fact, they are determined by each individual manufacturer and are not necessarily based on scientific criteria; they can merely reflect a manufacturer’s best guess as to when their product will lose a little luster. Many items can be consumed long after their “Use by” date, so ultimately it’s best to trust your nose, eyes, and taste buds so that you’re not wasting food and your hard-earned money. The University of Washington cited a study that found that a whopping 20% of food waste stems from consumers confusing these product dates as “safety” dates.
All that being said, if you’re buying something that spoils quickly or an item that doesn’t leave the grocery store shelves often, one of the first things you should look at is the product date printed on the product. Even if the product is approaching or past its “Used By” or “Sell By” date, chances are that it’s still perfectly safe to consume; just give it an extra sniff after you open it, and make sure to keep your store receipt in case any flavors are off.
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