Guide to Reading Nutrition Labels

Guide to Reading Nutrition Labels

All packaged foods contain food labels. Labels which are there to guide us in making the right food choices for us. However, more often than not we are left confused and overwhelmed by what we are presented with.

It is important to take the time to read the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) so that we are making the right choices for us. This panel breaks down the nutrients found in the product into various categories including energy, protein, fats, sugars and carbohydrates. This panel will break this information down into both per serve and per 100g. It is recommended that when comparing similar products that we use the ‘per 100g’ column so that we are comparing apples with apples.

The first thing we recommend looking at is the sugar column. We should be looking for less than 8% sugar or less than 8g of sugar per 100g. Remember that 4g of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. The World Health Organisation (WHO) latest recommendations are that adults should not have more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day and that children should have no more than 3-4 teaspoons a day.

When looking at food labels, ingredients are listed in order of descending quantity. If the list of ingredients on the label contains more than five ingredients than more than likely the food item you are looking to purchase has been heavily processed.

While it is useful to know the ingredients in descending order, bear in mind that there are a number of different names for many common ingredients. Sugar alone can be listed as sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose, dextrose, apple juice concentrate, golden syrup and so the list goes on. Be mindful of this form of “green washing” and always check the NIP for the % sugar.

It is also important to consider the additives and preservatives listed within the ingredients. More and more research indicate that these are behind many behaviour problems, asthma, skin issues such as eczema and dermatitis and numerous other health concerns. We recommend avoiding numbers such as the:

  • 100 range (artificial colouring).
  • 200 range (preservatives).
  • 400 range (artificial sweeteners).
  • Letters including E621-625 (glutamates) used to enhance flavours and a hidden name for monosodium glutamate i.e. MSG.
  • Vegetable and seed oils which are highly inflammatory.

Minimising packaged foods can do wonders for your health and wellbeing. Where you can’t, understanding labels helps guide us to make the best choice possible. Need help with your own real food journey? Why not ask us how we can help you and book in for One-one one Cooking Lesson or email us to organise a custom package for you.

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