Reading Product Labels
We see product labels every day, either on food, clothing, or makeup products. But when was the last time you honestly spent time understanding the components or ingredients, of the goods you consume? Probably so long ago you can't recall. As product labels are everywhere, we tend to overlook the importance of them. Perhaps it is also because the labels themselves are confusing, and so we neglect reading them. Yet paying attention to product labels are essential to living a healthy and sustainable life. You will be surprised that products that promote themselves using 'all-natural ingredients' actually contain copious amounts of sugars.
What do you value?
The first step is to ask yourself, what are your personal preferences and priorities during shopping? Do you want to purchase organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organisms), or ethically produced goods? Of course, these variables are not exclusive of one another, and no aspect is better than the other. You may even choose not to prefer a particular element but select the 'best' option out of a range of products. Perhaps this is also an opportunity for you to learn more about these variables to form an opinion. There is no correct answer because it is entirely up to you. However, asking yourself these questions will guide you during reading product labels and eliminating the consideration of purchasing a particular product.
Look for Product Certifications
Product certifications show that the product has passed the quality and safety standards of a specific organization. Look for product certification seals, instead of only glancing over terms such as 'natural ingredients' or 'healthy choice'. These terms may sound appealing, but its ingredients or components often don't reflect what the product advertises itself. Some certifications are Project Non-GMO Verified Seal for non-GMO, USDA Certified Organic Labels for organic produce or B-Corp certification for sustainable companies. You can easily detect product certifications before you even dive into the product labels and already have an idea of the goods' quality and reliability.
Product Label Terminology
Once you've looked for product certifications, continue to read the product label. To help guide you through the process, here are a few terms that are going to help you understand food labels:
- Serving size: The number of servings per package of the product (determined by the manufacturer). It is also important to note that all of the nutritional information printed on the label is based upon the serving size and not on the entire product. Hence, if you intend to consume more than one serving size, you should multiply each serving's nutritional value.
- Calories & Nutrients: These show the number of calories and nutrients used to produce the item. Common nutrients are cholesterol, fat (saturated and trans), protein, and sodium. There are different cholesterol and fat types that are good and bad for your health, so it is essential to understand the difference. Read the nutrients list carefully to see if it fits within your desired diet.
- % of daily value: this percentage figure printed next to the list of calories and nutrients show a sufficient intake of the item daily for a healthy life. This helps you to balance out the various nutrients that you consume every day for a healthy diet. If you wish to intake fewer nutrients, then select a product that has a lower percentage and vice versa.
Less is More
For product labels, such as makeup, hair, and body care, a rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients and components, the better. There are also many ingredients within our day-to-day products that are harmful to our body and health that we are unaware of because of the confusing chemical names. An easy way to avoid this is to select products with labels to easily understand its ingredients, rather than a product with a long list of chemical names.
Mentioned above are various small tips and tricks that you can easily apply to help make smarter choices about the products that you consume. More often than not, we ignore these signs and do more harm than good to ourselves. Next time you consider purchasing a product, ask yourself these questions, and be more proactive in your decisions!