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Unless you are biting into an apple, scrambling an egg from the farm down the road, or eating some other whole food, chances are the snacks and meals filling your plates every day have a lot of ingredients you might not be aware of. The good news is that these days, it is easier than ever to get clear information about the food we are purchasing, from how and where fruits and vegetables are grown to what kind of ingredients are inside the packaged foods that stock our cupboards and refrigerators.

It’s important to have accurate and truthful nutritional information about the food you eat, and what you are feeding your family. Food and label transparency and accountability have never been more important, as they allow consumers to make well-informed decisions. This traceability - knowing where our food comes from - allows us to feel good about the meals we put on our table.

The current push for more food transparency goes beyond just the Nutrition Facts listed on the back labels of packaged foods. Food transparency not only means giving people accurate information about ingredients, it often means detailing how and where something is produced, even spelling out why it is a healthy choice. To meet this consumer demand, companies are not only including more information on their food packaging, many businesses are taking the food transparency conversation to their websites where they are inviting people to learn more about the products they produce. This is also a way for companies to engage with consumers and build brand loyalty as they share information choosy shoppers are seeking.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of food transparency and labeling, so you’ll feel more informed the next time you’re picking out food for you and your family.

Food transparency enables consumers to make informed decisions

Maybe you remember the old jokes about “mystery meat” being served up in school cafeterias when you were younger. But these days, not knowing what’s in your food is no laughing matter. The biggest benefit of today’s push for more food transparency is that people who care about what they’re putting into their bodies can be sure they are buying the best fresh and packaged foods and supplements available to them.

For many people, educating themselves about what is in their food -- from the exact ingredients to the traceability information that shows how they were produced -- gives them confidence in regularly selecting a particular item. For example, if you know organic apples from a nearby orchard are bagged and available in your store’s produce department, that’s the brand you’ll likely reach for each week.

The same goes for supplements with ingredients sourced from quality plants grown on organic farms. The team behind the Nutrilite brand knows this. Their commitment to traceability is lengthy and transparent. Because of this, the ingredients used to make Nutrilite supplements can be traced back to the farms where the vegetables, fruits and herbs used to make the extracts were grown. Meticulous records are kept detailing the life cycles of these plants, from who sowed the seeds to who harvested them and when.

This kind of honesty and transparency not only makes consumers feel better, it builds loyalty and confidence behind a brand that can be trusted.

Making sure food choices align with your doctor’s recommendations

One of the pluses of food transparency is you can use it to keep yourself healthy. In the past, people who had dietary restrictions or illnesses such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure might have had a difficult time making sure the foods they were buying aligned with their special needs and their doctor’s recommendations.

Today’s Nutrition Facts labels clearly spell out the percentages of fat, cholesterol and sodium in each serving. Many packaged foods often go a step or two further, adding wording to the label to identify foods as “low sodium” or “no salt added.”

Increasing the healthier options for consumers

The trend toward accountability and transparency in food labeling has prompted some companies to change the ingredients in their products. For example, when labeling required some food brands to spell out the level of unhealthy ingredients found in their products, like trans fats, they made the decision to put fewer of those ingredients in their products. This is a big win for consumers trying to make healthier choices.

Some companies have made a big effort on their websites to tout their simple, easy-to-read ingredient lists, comparing them to things shoppers might find in their own pantries. This extra information makes shoppers feel better educated about what they are buying. Some package labels will point shoppers to company websites for more of this information.

Tips for reading food labels

If you feel odd about standing in the grocery store reading the label of the food you are about to put in your cart, don’t. This transparency detective work is the first and best way to find out what’s in the package. Start with the traditional Nutrition Facts box on the back of the can, box or package. You’ll first want to make sure you understand the serving size that all those numbers relate to. Is the whole package one serving, or is a serving just a half cup, or a single piece of what’s in the package? This makes a big difference when you scan down to see how many calories, fats, sugars and sodium are in one serving.

When you look at the ingredients list, just focus on the first few items listed. Those make up the bulk of what’s in the package. So if you’re seeing a lot of sugar or unhealthy fats in those first items, you might want to look for a healthier option, or plan to eat it sparingly.

Lastly, look at the front and sides of the package for any extra information the producer is offering to consumers. This is where you’d typically see information about a food being “low sodium,” “fat free,” organic or Non-GMO.

While all this is a little bit of extra work on your end, companies are investing in supply chain transparency and traceability so you can make more informed choices for you and your family when it comes to the food you are buying. Take advantage of all this extra label information so you can be confident you are making the best choices.

* Nutrilite products and ingredients are not organic.