Understanding the small print - food labels

Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Small print is not made easy to understand, but by learning about the key ingredients, you will be educated on the good, the bad and the ugly where ingredients are concerned. You will feel empowered as you make the healthiest choices on the shelves in no time.

The two key things to look for are the ingredients list and the nutrition information panel.

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Nutrition Information Panel
All food labels will have the same format as set by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).  This makes comparing products much easier and user friendly so that you can make informed choices based on what you are looking for in a food product.
Note: When comparing products, ensure you are looking at per 100g/100ml and not serving size as these may vary and would obscure your comparison.

The panel will contain information per serve and in 100g of the food:
  • Energy in kilojoules (kjs)
  • Protein in grams (g)
  • Fat in grams (g)-total and saturated. Sometimes Molyunsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are also included.
  • Carbohydrate in grams (g)-and of which proportion is sugar.
  • Sodium in grams (g)

A healthy food product will have:

  • Low saturated fat
  • Low sodium
  • High fibre
  • Nutrient dense e.g. vitamins, minerals such as Calcium, B12, Vitamin C etc.
Low quantities per 100g would be:

  • 3g of fat
  • 2g of sugar
  • 120mg of sodium

If you are trying to lose weight, reducing the amount of kilojoules and saturated fat is important. Avoid all trans-fats. If it is not listed in the panel check the ingredients list for Hydrogenated oils. Typically, saturated fats should not exceed 10% of your total energy intake.

Don’t be confused by the % symbols of Daily intakes. These are percentages of the key nutrients that you would consume by one serve of that product in comparison to the given Recommended Daily Intakes. For example, if it states 40% of Calcium per serve that means that in that day, you have 60% more calcium to consume, to meet your Recommended Daily Intakes and be adequately nourished.

With our online calorie counter, you tell us what you’ve eaten and we track your calories. See how easy it is to keep an eye on your diet and weight loss progress with our simple tools.

The first product listed is the most abundant ingredient in the food, followed by the next highest and so on. The last ingredient will be in the food item the least. Look out for where sugar is ranked on the list. Also salt or preservatives and additives are something to look out for. Avoid all hydrogenated oils.

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