How to read food labels? A solid guide!

How to read food labels? A solid guide!
Publication date:
It takes approx. 4 minutes to read this article

It is essential to carefully read labels in search of harmful preservatives and artificial colors. In order to limit the amount of them in your diet, you need to learn to recognize them effectively. Another important piece of information we need to look for is the shelf life of the product and the allergens it contains.

Products for which the list of ingredients does not have to be detailed

Not all products available on store shelves are subject to the same rules regarding label information. Ingredients do not need to be listed when it comes to:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables,
  • sparkling water,
  • vinegar,
  • cheese,
  • butter,
  • fermented milk or cream (as long as the process is natural – no artificial additives).

How do I read labels?

What are the benefits of careful label reading? First of all, it allows you to free yourself from marketing tricks. Usually on the package the product is presented as the best. Its choice – as perfect. Reading labels allows you to choose rationally. We buy products that are good for our health and well-being.

Shorter ingredient lists are better

There is a belief that short ingredient lists are more desirable. It is very correct. In a short list it is more difficult to smuggle something that may hide a harmful substance under an inconspicuous name

Expiration date

This is the basic information that we have to read on the package. Two types of markings are used:

  • “best before”,
  • “use by”.

Composition of the product

We should analyze the composition of particular products in a specific way. Cheese manufacturers use different methods of masking inconvenient ingredients, while producers of frozen food use different ones. There are, however, several issues to which attention should always be paid.

Order of products

It definitely matters. Listing ingredients in descending order is used. The substances with the highest content in the product will be at the beginning. Those at the bottom of the list may be found in trace amounts

What to avoid first?

If you choose products with a very complex composition, you run the risk of consuming ingredients that are unnecessary for your health. There are simply too many of them to avoid the unwanted ones. We expose ourselves to the consumption of: artificial colouring and preservatives, stabilizers, acidity regulators or antioxidants

Important: Remember that the prefixes used are often misleading. For example “bio” does not always mean a truly organic product! Organic food is certified, bio not necessarily. Such a designation may well mean that there are live bacterial cultures in the product. Other common labels include:

  • light – product with lower calorie content,
  • organic – processed without artificial colouring and preservatives,
  • fit – enriched with carbohydrates and fiber.

Ingredients with the prefix “E”

They enjoy a very bad reputation. Not all abbreviations preceded by this letter refer to harmful substances: E300, for example, stands for ascorbic acid, a popular, prized and much needed vitamin C. There are more such examples (lecithin, gum arabic, caramel). The most harmful substances labeled in a similar way are:

  • E122,
  • E124,
  • E150c,
  • E150d,
  • E211,
  • E250.

Excessive consumption of these ingredients may result in numerous health problems. We expose ourselves to problems with digestion, hyperactivity, a greater risk of contracting one of the cancers.


Manufacturers are obliged to clearly specify on the packaging the names of the substances that may cause an allergy. This should be kept in mind not only if you are allergic to a certain type of product. It should also be borne in mind when, for example, preparing a menu for a party where people with such a condition will be present.


It is right to warn against products whose composition is rich in large amounts of sugar. Not always its presence at the end of the list of ingredients should persuade us to buy it. Sometimes it is replaced by sweeteners that are harmful to health in excess. Sugar itself can also be described as maltose, fructose, sucrose, agave syrup, corn syrup, malt, sorbitol, etc.

Add comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *