Understanding Food Labels

In the world of conflicting nutritional information and myths, it can be hard to determine whether you are eating healthily. In order to do this, you need to be able to understand food labels and what the numbers mean.

There can be more information provided or in some cases less but these are the common values listed and those which you need to be aware of. The values are given per 100g of the product and sometimes by a recommended portion size. Some products provide reference intakes for energy, total fats, saturated fats, sugars and salts. This means the recommended daily intake of these products which are:

Energy: 2,000kcal Total Fat: 70g, Saturated Fats: 20g, Sugars: 90g, Salt: 6g

Percentages are provided on some products to demonstrate what percentage of the daily intake is being consumed. For example, if a product has 9g of saturated fat in then this would represent 45% of the daily intake. Key information is also displayed on the front of the packaged foods to highlight the important information at a glance. In some cases this information is also colour coded:

Red = don’t eat often        Amber = eat regularly most of the time       Green the healthiest choice

Although having food labels on the front of the products is helpful at giving a quick guide to the nutritional value, it is based upon a portion serving and in a lot of cases the consumer will be eating the entire product, therefore this can be misleading and you are better off using the labels on the back.

How do I know if the product is high in bad foods?

Total fat   High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g, Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g

Saturated fat   High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g, Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g

Sugars   High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g, Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g

Salt   High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium), Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)

What should I look out for on an ingredients list?

Ingredients lists can be quite complicated to look at. Keep it simple by understanding that the ingredients are listed in weight order from highest to lowest. Therefore if the first ingredient is sugar then the product is largely sugar based. Another tip is the shorter the ingredients list the better.

Posted in: Health and Wellbeing

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