Ever look at a food label & wonder what you really need to be looking at? Why the list of ingredients says what it does? Why some food labels include calcium in their nutrition panel and others don’t? Here’s what you really need to pay attention too!
Let’s start with the front of the package. Does it have a health claim? For example “Low Fat”. What do these health claims mean? It is very important that these nutritional claims meet the guidelines and here are some examples:
- Low fat – only allowed containing 3% of fat in solid foods & 1.5% fat in liquids.
- Fat free – can only contain 0.15% or less of Fat
- Percentage of fat – must be accurate. But don’t be fooled. If it says 80% fat free, remember that means it contains 20% fat!!
- Reduced Fat – has to contain 25% less fat than the original product.
- No added sugar – can contain natural sugars found in the foods in the product already but no extra sugar will be added
- Reduced salt – has to contain 25% less salt than the original product.
Let’s look at some other common health claims on labels
- “No Cholesterol” or “Cholesterol Free”. This is often found on products that are plant based, which is 100% true because plants can’t produce cholesterol. So if it’s competitor product doesn’t have the claim, don’t think that the “No Cholesterol” product is better, they are both cholesterol free.
- “Lite Milk” or “Light Cheese” doesn’t necessarily mean the product is lower in fat or calories. This description may refer to the colour of the food, even the taste or texture. The term “Lite” doesn’t have to mean anything because of it’s in correct spelling.
Food labels are about being consumer aware. Just because the label states some i.e. “lower in fat than other leading brands” doesn’t mean its low fat, or “baked not fried” doesn’t mean it’s lower in calories. You always need to check the nutrition panel.
Nutrition Information Panel (NIP): has to have
- Energy (kilojoules), protein, total fat, saturated fat, total carbohydrates, sugars and sodium per serve, as well as per 100 g or 100 ml.
- If there is a food claim it must contain the relevant information in the NIP: i.e. if the health claim is “High in Calcium”, calcium must be included in the NIP per serve and per 100g/mL. This goes for potassium, fibre, and iron.
So what should you been looking for in your macronutrient profiles?
The following are large amounts per 100 g:
- 30 g of sugars
- 20 g of fat
- 3 g of fibre
- 600 mg of sodium.
The following are small amounts per 100 g:
- 2 g of sugars
- 3 g of fat
- 0.5 g of fibre
- 20 mg sodium.
(According to Food Standards Australia & New Zealand)
If this is all too much to remember, simple download the Traffic Light Food Tracker App on your phone for a quick reference when shopping.
Lastly we are looking at the ingredients list. This will always be labels from the ingredient with the highest content to the smallest content. The scary fact is if an ingredient is less than 5% of the product, it doesn’t have to be listed unless it’s a known allergen (i.e. peanuts)
You will often see one or more ingredients with a % next to them. This I known as the characterising ingredient. For example, Baked Beans. Its characterising ingredient is Beans (54%). Look at the food label next time, you may be shocked how little of the characterising ingredient is in some products.
If you struggle to eat right fin out how to make it simple by contacting email@example.com