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Susana Santiago Neri, Miren Josune Zubieta Satrustegui, Elena Gascón, Dietitians-nutritionists of the School of Pharmacy and Nutrition of the University of Navarra

"Read what you eat": what information do food labels contain?

The dietitians-nutritionists of the School Susana Santiago, Iosune Zubieta and Elena Gascón participated in the Cuídate Plus event to talk about food labeling.

Mon, 29 May 2017 13:50:00 +0000 Posted in Pharmaceutical Mail

Light", "whole-grain", "0% subject fat", "no added sugars" foods: how do we interpret this information and the information on food labeling? Can we trust the "healthy" advertising ? This was the challenge that three dietitians-nutritionists from the University of Navarra faced during two intense days at a stand on labeling within the Cuídate Plus event.

Many of the attendees at this health fair acknowledged that they did not usually read the labeling due to lack of time. Those who did said they were not sure how to interpret it. As specialists in nutrition, we want to stress the importance of the general population learning to read what they eat. If we want to make a healthy, safe purchase manager, we should not only look at the advertising or the healthy messages, but evaluate the food as a whole, taking into account the nutritional labeling and the ingredients.

In the nutritional labeling we must pay special attention to the kilocalories (kcal), fats, sugars and salt. The proportion of these ingredients is mandatory per 100 g or 100 ml. of food. But be careful when looking at the portions indicated by the manufacturer because our real consumption could be much higher (although the information on a portion of potato chips refers to a 30 g portion, it is usual to eat the whole 55 g bag).

In addition to the nutritional labeling, it is essential to read the list of ingredients, which always appears in descending order. Look at the subject of oils or fats used (olive, sunflower, palm, coconut...). It is worth noting that palm oil has been one of the most recurring issues in our stand... The legislation in this regard requires, since December 2016, that the origin of the vegetable oils and fats used be indicated. This allows us to monitor the fat content (especially saturated) and the subject of oils included in the product. In the list of ingredients we can also check if there are sugars added by the manufacturer (sugar, dextrose, glucose syrup, fructose...), in addition to those that may be naturally present in some foods, such as fruit juices or dairy products.

It is also essential to check the ingredients when choosing whole-grain foods and not only look at the fiber, the dark color or the messages subject "5 grains" or "from seeds". We must make sure that the main ingredient is wholemeal flour or cereal, or if it is refined flour to which bran is added simply to give it a dark color reminiscent of wholemeal bread.

The experience in Cuídate plus, and in other health promotion events, seems to us core topic to bring the work of health professionals closer to the population, give visibility to the figure of the dietitian-nutritionist and bet on the Education in self-care of food and health, especially from childhood.