Whether you’re just curious or you or your family member has an allergy, it’s important to know how to read and decode the food labels for dairy products. A lot of food out there have added chemicals or ingredients that may be harmful to our bodies. In order to ensure that you’re not ingesting any of these potentially life-threatening additives, you should know how to properly decode the labels for your favorite dairy products.
The Labeling Law
Essentially, the food labels on any dairy product should be clear and easy enough for a 7-year-old to read. Any product manufactured after January 1st, 2006, are to follow The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. This means that all labels should be written in “plain language”, requiring the eight top food allergens to be stated on the labels using recognizable names easy enough for a child to read. If you or your child are unable to read the labels in an easy manner, you probably shouldn’t use it. Generally, the rule for processed foods with ingredients that you can’t understand, aren’t good for you anyway.
Decoding Milk Dairy Food Labels
Picking out milk can be a tough task if you aren’t sure which one is best for you. Here’s how you can decode the percentages. Whole milk contains naturally occurring fat. This type of milk has the 3.5% of this fat still in it. 2% milk has had enough of this fat to bring it down to that percentage, as does the 1%. 2% and 1% are labeled as “low fat”. Skim milk doesn’t have any percentage of that fat in it and is usually labeled as “fat-free” or “non-fat”. Lactose free milk, on the other hand, is preferred amongst those who have issues digesting lactose, a primary carbohydrate in milk.
Yogurt Dairy Food Labels
Yogurt is a tricky snack if you’re on a diet. It can either be chocked full of calories or has a ton of sugar in it. When it comes to buying yogurt, there are a few things to look out for, such as added sugars and artificial sweeteners. Added sugars are found more commonly in yogurts that contain fruit flavors and honey flavors. Reading the ingredient list will tip you off as to what’s really in your snack. If you see the word “fructose” or “evaporated cane sugar”, these are just fancy words for sugar. Generally, if your yogurt contains more than 20 grams of sugar in one serving, it’s not healthy.
Rather than using sugar, companies will use artificial sweeteners. This is more to cut calories than anything. Honestly, it’s better to go with the yogurt with the natural sugar rather than the artificial sweetened kind. The reason being, artificial sweeteners can contain chemicals and not enough research has been done to rule out dangers to the human body. Some of these chemicals include saccharin, aspartame and sucralose.
When it comes to decoding your dairy labels, it’s best to make sure that you can pronounce the words rather than struggling to get the first syllable out. If you can’t pronounce what’s in it, don’t eat it. Stick to products that contain natural ingredients or are high in nutritional value.
Check out our Dairy Section for information on expiration dates for common dairy products.