Updated: Jun 19, 2019
We all know we should eat healthier and exercise more, but when it comes to understanding the label on a packet of food it really can be a nightmare. Hopefully this will help to clear the fog and help you to make more informed choices about the foods you buy and eat.
Firstly ingredients. These are listed in descending order of content. This means the main ingredient appears at the top of the list and this can quickly help you identify high fat or high sugar foods that should be avoided. If fat or sugar appears in the top three ingredients then the food is almost always high in fat or sugar and you should be careful about how much you eat. It can be confusing though, as fat and sugar can be listed by a variety of names.
Here are the main names that food manufacturers use for fat:
xxx-glycerides (anything ending in glycerides)
Here are the main names that food manufacturers use for sugar
Fructose (Fruit sugar)
Remember to always read the top three ingredients.
Learn simple rules to help you identify healthy and unhealthy foods You can learn virtually all you need to know about a food from the nutrition label. A typical label will provide the information per 100g and average serving size. These simple examples below will help you to make healthier food choices
Choose more foods containing less than 5g of fat per 100g
Choose fewer foods containing more than 10g of fat per 100g
Choose more foods containing less than 5g of sugar per 100g
Choose more foods containing more than 6g of fibre per 100g
From now on, a quick glance at a food label can help you choose between healthy and unhealthy foods. After a check of the ingredients, you should recognise the warning signals if fat or sugar appear in the top three ingredients. Remember, food manufacturers use many different names for fat and sugars.
Traffic light guide
"Some food labels use red, amber and green colour coding which makes it easier to choose food that is lower in total fat, saturated fat, and sugar and salt. Choose more ’greens’, ’ambers’ and fewer 'reds'"
Total fat, saturated fat, and sugar and salt - high or low?
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 and sodium - Salt is also called sodium chloride. Sometimes, food labels only give the figure for sodium. But there's a simple way to work out how much salt you're eating from the sodium figure: salt = sodium x 2.5.(one part of salt is equal to 2.5 parts of sodium). Adults should aim to eat no more than 2.4g of sodium per day, as this is equal to 6g of salt. High: more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium) Low: 0.25g salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)