What Crucial Information Can You Obtain From Food Labels?
Reading time: 6 min

What Crucial Information Can You Obtain From Food Labels?

Reading time: 6 min
Learn how to make better decisions when choosing the food products you consume.
What Crucial Information Can You Obtain From Food Labels?

Every food product, which includes dietary supplements, is required by law to list the ingredients and nutrition facts on its label.

But reading this information correctly is not as simple as it sounds.

In this blog, you will learn how to correctly read food labels and make better decisions when choosing the food you consume.

Salt and sugar

Salt and sugar are two nutrients that an active person needs to view differently.

It is known that on average we consume too much salt. Since salt is potentially problematic, manufacturers must express the amount of salt contained in a food product.

This information may be crucial for someone dealing with high blood pressure or leading a sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, an active person loses high amounts of sodium during physical activity, especially in summer months.

The story with sugar is similar. An excessive intake of sugar may be detrimental for your health and may lead to health problems, such as obesity and diabetes type 2.

But what represents an excess of sugar for an average sedentary person, is not excessive for an athlete who during training consumes large amounts of sugar as a fast source of energy.

Information regarding sugar may also be problematic on sports nutrition food labels. Although the food label of an energy gel declares the amount of sugar it contains, this does not tell you what type of sugar molecules you are dealing with.

Fructose and glucose are two examples of simple sugars, but their transport through the bloodstream differs. This can be an important piece of information when trying to create the optimal race nutrition plan.

List of ingredients

The list of ingredients declares all the ingredients used in the production of a food product. The ingredients are listed in falling order based on their mass, including additives.

This means that the most represented nutrients or ingredients in a food product are listed first. The ingredient list must properly emphasize allergens, typically by altering the font, such as using bold font.

The order of ingredients is useful when trying to make an informed choice. Let's take an energy bar as an example and compare two different energy bars (Monster Flapjack and Training Bar), the latter available in our store:

  1. The list of ingredients of the first energy bar: OAT FLAKES, vegetable margarine (vegetable oil {palm oil, rapeseed oil}, water, emulsifier {mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids}, dyes {anato, curcumin}, natural flavors), chocolate topping 14% (sugar, vegetable oil {palm kernel oil, palm oil}, whey powder (from MILK), WHEAT flour (enriched with calcium, iron, niacin and thiamine), low-fat cocoa powder, emulsifier {SOYA lecithin, polyglycerol polyricinoleate}, corn malt syrup (partially inverted sugar syrup), sugar, glucose syrup, natural flavors.
  2. The list of ingredients of the second energy bar: date, oat flour (GLUTEN), fructose, glucose syrup, vegetable oil (coconut), isomaltulose, humectant: glycerin, leavening agent: sodium bicarbonate, natural flavor, cinnamon, iodized salt, emulsifier: lecithin.
  per 100 g of the first energy bar per 100 g of the second energy bar
Energy 446 kcal 172.3 kcal
Total Fat 21.7 g 8 g
Saturated Fat 9.7 g 2.6 g
Total Carbohydrate 53.6 g 67.5 g
Sugars 25.4 g 39.7 g
Dietary Fiber 5.3 g 3.1 g
Protein 6.5 g 5.5 g
Salt 0.18 g 1.3 g

We can quickly observe that the second ingredient after oats in the first energy bar is vegetable fat, while in the second energy bar, the base ingredients are dates and oats.

The first energy bar contains more dietary fats than the second energy bar, which is confirmed by the nutrition facts label.

Energy Bar Training Bar NduranzThis delicious plant-based energy bar will keep your energy levels full during intense exercise.

The list of ingredients helps you to determine the composition of carbohydrates. The nutrition facts label shows the amount of carbohydrates and sugars in both energy bars, but it says nothing about their composition.

By checking the ingredient list, you can see that in our example, the second energy bar also contains sugars in the form of fructose (dates and added fructose), while in the first energy bar, the basic unit of carbohydrates is mainly glucose.

Country of origin

The country of origin of the final product is determined on the basis of the country or region where the last meaningful processing of a product was performed, the result of which is the production of a new final product or a product that represents an important step in the production of the final product.

Usually, we only get the information regarding the origin of the final product, but not regarding the place of origin of its base ingredients.

Expiration date

A very important piece of information for you is the expiration date of the food product.

Based on the type of food product, the food label may declare either 'use by' or 'best before'. 'Use by' marks the date until the food product is safe for use, while the 'best before' marks the date until the food product preserves the expected quality.

What's the difference?

Expiration date or 'use by'

Food products that from a microbiological perspective are highly perishable and may quickly become dangerous to your health, the date of minimum durability is replaced with expiration date.

The 'use by' term is used on highly perishable foods, such as fresh fish, fresh ground meet, fresh milk, etc.

Date of minimum durability or 'best before'

This represents the date until a food product preserves all its qualities under the condition it is properly stored.

Food products after this date are still usable. They may start losing their flavor and aroma, but they do not represent a risk for your health.

The Best Energy Gels for Cycling and RunningAll our energy gels have the 'best before' label. This means you don't have to worry they become dangerous for your health.

The term 'best before' is found on numerous frozen, dry (pasta, rice), preserved, or other foods (vegetable oil, chocolate, etc.).

Nevertheless, after opening the packaging, follow the instructions that tell you how to deal with the product after opening and the time frame in which it must be consumed.

Health and dietary claims

One of the strategies of food manufacturers to increase product exposure among consumers is to put health and dietary claims on the packaging.

Dietary claims 

A dietary claim is any claim that states, assumes, or hints that a food product has beneficial dietary properties regarding energy (caloric values), nutrients, or other ingredients.

Examples of dietary claims:

  • NO FAT and any claim with a similar meaning means that the food product does not contain fats. Such a claim is allowed only if the product contains no more than 0.5 g of fat per 100 g or 100 ml.
  • SOURCE OF PROTEIN and any claim with a similar meaning means that the food product is a source of protein. Such a claim is allowed only when at least 12% of the food product is represented by protein.
  • HIGH CONTENT OF DIETARY FIBER and any claim with a similar meaning is allowed when the food product contains at least 6 g of dietary fiber per 100 g or at least 3 g of dietary fiber per 100 kcal.

Health claims

A health claim is any claim that states, assumes, or hints at a correlation between a category of food products, a single food product, or one of its ingredients on one side and health on the other side (e.g., a food products improves digestion).

All these claims are regulated by law. Only claims approved by EU legislation may be used.

Example of health claims:

  • Zinc plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Calcium contributes in the increase of the release of energy during metabolism.
  • Magnesium contributes to reducing fatigue.
  • Carbohydrates contribute to restoring normal muscle function (contraction) after very intense and/or prolonged physical activity that causes muscle fatigue or depletion of glycogen stores in the skeletal muscles.
  • Iron plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin.
Marine Magnesium 4Endurance ProMarine magnesium provides very high absorption levels of this extremely important mineral.

Other labels/indications?

Food packaging may also contain other labels, for which the food product must fulfil certain conditions to be allowed to sport a specific label.

These labels may declare the absence of an ingredient (gluten, lactose), method of production (bio), alternative diets (vegan), GMO-free, etc.

Sports nutrition supplements sometimes declare when the product should be used: before, during, or after activity.


Food labeling on food product packaging is not only about informing consumers about the ingredients. It is a tool that allows you to make better decisions when choosing the food you consume, influencing your health, quality of life, and even your athletic performance.

Correct information allow you to choose food products that support your needs. Furthermore, your choice allows you to indirectly influence food companies to improve the quality of their products and take greater responsibility.

As a consumer, it is important that you learn how to read and understand the information on food labels. This way, you will become an informed and responsible food consumer.