Food Label Reading
Understanding how to interpret a food label is an important skill to learn.
It aids in the prevention of lifestyle disease by awarding you with the ability to make healthy selections.
It is also a necessary skill to learn for individuals with a food intolerance, food allergy or special dietary requirements.
Tips for making healthier choices – Food Labels
Nutrient information panel (NIP)
The NIP generally presents as a table on the back of the food label, it contains a list of nutrients and their quantity in that food product. It also outlines the serving size that the ‘per serve’ nutrient quantities are determined from e.g. the manufacturer may use 45g as one serve and calculate the nutrient quantity based on that.
- When comparing the nutrition content between different brands or products, use the ‘per 100g’ column. When determining exactly how much of that nutrient you are going to consume, look at the ‘per serve’ column. Ensure the products serving size is equal to the portion size you will be eating or adjust the value accordingly e.g. if the manufacturers serving size is 45g but you are eating 50g, the nutrient quantities will be larger.
- Fat: Select products with below 10g of total fat per 100g and below 3g of saturated fat per 100g
- Sugar: Choose products with below 15g of sugar per 100g. The sugar content is likely to be higher if the product contains fruit.
- Fibre: Go for higher fibre products. Items with above 3g of fibre per 100g are considered high fibre.
- Salt: Opt for products with below 120mg of sodium per 100g. These are ‘low salt’ items. This may be difficult for some products in which case, select the item with below 300mg of sodium per 100g or the lowest quantity.
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This means that the first few ingredients on the list will have contributed the most to that product. For this reason, it is better to avoid products with sugar, salt or fat appearing high up in the list e.g. a product with sugar as its first ingredient will not be the best option.
All common allergens must be listed on the ingredients list and statements such as ‘may contain’ if there is a risk of cross contamination with the allergen during processing.
Fat, salt and sugar in disguise
These 3 ingredients can come in many different forms, it is useful to familiarise yourself with some of their alternate names so you do not overlook their presence. The following list provides examples of how sugar, fat and salt may be labelled:
MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Dietetic services at the ENT Wellbeing are available to provide guidance and discuss tailored advice and tips for making healthier eating choices. If you are after advice or would like to speak to our Dietitian, please contact ENT Wellbeing Diet and Nutrition Sydney – Phone 1300 123 368.