11 Oct How to read food labels
Welcome back to Sandtondiet and to the next discussion from National Nutrition week which focuses on how to read food labels
Let’s face it, reading food labels can be very tricky. If you aren’t sure what you are looking at on the food label it can be very confusing.
I absolutely love this infographic on how to read food labels. There is so much information in here that clears up a lot of the confusion with regards to reading food labels. If things are still a bit confusing then keep reading because I go into how to read food labels in a bit more detail.
What is the relevance of the ingredients list on a food label
The first thing to take note of on a food label is the ingredients list. The ingredients are listed in order from biggest to smallest. In other words the ingredients are list from those that comprise the highest quantity within that product to those that have the smallest quantity. So if you see sugar, salt or fat listed in the first three ingredients you can be pretty sure that the product is not going to be a healthy choice. On the infographic they list the various names for fat, salt and sugar that you may find on a label. So if any of those words appear at the top of the list then you are probably better off going for something else.
What information is in a nutrition table on the food label
The nutrition table on the food label also gives us very useful information but I also find that people find this the most confusing. The first thing to note is that there are usually two columns on a nutrition table. The first is the 100g column and the second one lists the ingredients per portion of the product. The infographic has some very good guidelines about reading the labels and about how to tell if a product is healthy or not. The orange table has some really good cut-off values to help us tell if a product is unhealthy or not.
What information should you look out for in the 100g column
The first guideline on the infographic tells us to aim for products which have a total sugar value < 5g/ 100g food or < 2.5/ 100ml. This tells us that the particular product that you are looking at has a reasonably low amount of total sugar. The next bit of information tells us that we should be choosing products with <2.5g saturated per 100g of the product. This way we can be sure that we aren’t choosing a product that is high in artery clogging saturated fat. The recommendation for salt is to choose products with <120mg/ 100g. This way we can be sure that the sodium content is not too high and that we aren’t choosing a product that could potentially cause our blood pressure to rise. Finally, when you are looking for a healthy product trying going for one that has >3g fibre/ 100g. Fibre is really important to keep your bowel regular and helps protect against certain types of cancer.
So make to use these guidelines when yo are reading a food label to make sure that you are not choosing an unhealthy product.
What is the meaning of the portion size column
Don’t forget about the portion size column on your food label. This column has valuable information about the nutrition content of the portion of food that you are eating. If you are looking at kilojoules or calories then this is the column to be reading. There are not set amounts for this because how many calories/ kilojoules you need really depends on your size, your age and how much exercise you do. Just be aware that the portion listed in that column may not reflect the portion of the whole container that you have picked up so be sure to look out for that.
Other healthy eating information and resources
I hope that this article has been helpful in getting you to understand how to decode a food labels. I have lots of other healthy eating advice on my blog. Why not check out What is the best diet in the world or The best way to lose weight without being extreme or some great advice on how to Conquer your diet with a food diary. This National nutrition week also focuses on making eating whole food a priority. Feel free to have a read through this article on make eating whole foods a way of life.
If you would like to have a look at the original Nation Nutrition Week publications then go to https://www.nutritionweek.co.za/NNW2019/