Understanding food labels can be very tricky however it’s a fundamental skill which enables you to make informed and better nutritional choices.
Two key things to remember:
- The food industry doesn’t care about your health! The less packaged food we eat, the better!
- Ignore everything on the front of a label.
There is lots of information on food labels and getting distracted by nutrient claims, star ratings and ticks is easy to do. Focus on the Nutrition table and the ingredients list.
The Nutrition Information Panel (NIP):
This contains the amounts of the nutrients in the food and will have at least two columns – per serve and per 100g. When comparing products use the per 100g column.
Recommended levels for nutrients: The nutrients which must be labelled are Energy (kilojoules), protein, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars and sodium.
- Sugar: ≤ 10g / 100g
- Saturated fat: ≤ 5g/100g
- Sodium: ≤ 400mg/100g
Other nutrients might be labelled, such as fibre, iron, calcium etc however these are optional and are usually only labelled if a claim is made that the product is a good source of that nutrient.
In general, look for products which have small ingredients lists. A long ingredients list indicates the food has been heavily processed.
Other names for added sugar: Sucrose, fructose, dextrose, glucose, lactose, malt, syrups, honey. Added sugars are the worst for our health and be sceptical of ‘low fat’ products – These often have high amounts of added sugar.