Food Label Reading – Decoding the Information in Food Labels
Food labels may provide helpful information to help consumers make food choices. Food products make many claims so how do you know if the item is a good option or if it is part of a marketing ploy? Here is a guidance about what to look for in food labels.
The following tips will help you work out the information contained in food labels
- ‘Light’ or ‘lite’: This may not mean a product has a reduced fat or energy content but rather that it is light in colour or taste.
- Baked not fried: This product may sound like the healthier option, however, the fat content may be just as high so it is important to still read the label!
- No added sugar: No refined sugar has been added during manufacturing but a product can still be very high in natural sugar e.g. fructose from fruit.
- Reduced fat: This means that a product contains 25% less fat than its standard counterpart of the same brand but it does not mean the product is low in fat.
- ‘Low fat’: This is a common tag used in food labels. A food item with this claim must contain below 3% fat. This is a good option provided the manufacturers have not made up for flavour by increasing the sugar content- this can be determined by checking the NIP and following the above guidelines.
- ‘Cholesterol free’: This can be a clever marketing tactic. All plant based foods are naturally cholesterol free, sometimes plant based products use this as a claim to make it sound like a healthier option and to distract you from the fat content. For example, vegetable oil is cholesterol free but it is still 100% fat.
- Fat free: These products have only a negligible amount of fat present. They too are good options, provided the fat removed has not been replaced with an excess of sugar!
In summary, always check the nutrient information panel and ingredients list on the product label. Checking these two areas will allow you to determine if the product really is a good option, not just for one nutrient but for multiple e.g. not only low in fat but also in sugars and sodium.
For tips and guidelines on label reading, see the Food label reading article. For further information, book an appointment with our dietitian Belinda Elwin today at ENT Wellbeing Diet & Nutrition, Sydney – Phone 1300 123 368.