Low fat, reduced fat, 99% fat free, no added sugar, no added salt, gluten free, no preservatives. Interpreting food packaging is confusing! There are so many different nutrition and health claims that get slapped onto food packaging in an attempt to get your attention and highlight the reasons why you should buy that particular product over another. The problem is that these claims are often very misleading. They almost never mean what you think they do.

What To Look For

There are endless variations of nutrition and health claims in addition to the ones listed above. For this reason it is best to ignore them! You will gain the most valuable information about the nutritional content of the product from the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) and the ingredients as per the example below.

Nutrition Information Panel

Serving Size 45g

Number of Serves 16

Avg Qty Per 45g Serve

Avg Qty Per 100g

Energy

687kJ

1530kJ

Protein

4.5g

10.0g

Fat, total

3.2g

7.0g

- saturated

0.5g

1.2g

Carbohydrate

26.8g

59.6g

- sugars

7.9g

17.5g

Dietary Fibre

4.8g

10.6g

Sodium

24mg

54mg

Ingredients

Wholegrain oats (67%), dried fruit [sultanas(11%), currants (3%), apple (1.5%), vegetables oils, preservative (223)], honey bran straws [wheat bran, sugar, wheat starch, salt honey, colour [caramel (150d)], almonds (2%), sugar.

Interpreting an NIP

When reading the values on an NIP always use the per 100g column which is the last column on every product. The reason for this is that the serving size in the per serve column varies between products making it difficult and inaccurate to apply the cut off values below. The best choice values in the flowing table are what you need to aim for when interpreting an NIP.

Nutrient

Best Choice

Fat, total

Less than 10.0g

-saturated

Less than 2.0g

-sugars

Less than 15.0g

Dietary Fibre

More than 8.0g

Sodium

Less than 400mg

Interpreting The Ingredients List

The items on an ingredients list are in order of most to least by weight. Look at only the first three ingredients for sources of sugar, saturated fat and/or salt (sodium). Look out for alternative names for these ingredients as per the table below.

Alternative Names

Sugar

Dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar, caster sugar, raw sugar

Saturated fat

Animal fat/oil, butter, milk solids, chocolate, beef fat, coconut, coconut milk/oil/cream, copha, cream, dripping, lard, ghee, suet, palm oil, vegetable shortening, sour cream

Salt

Baking powder, celery salt, garlic salt, meat/yeast extract, monosodium glutamate (MSG), onion salt, rock salt, sea salt, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium nitrate, stock cubes, vegetable salt

Putting It Into Practice

1. Check the products in your cupboard to see how they measure up. For all of the not so suitable ones, replace them with a better choice when re-stocking.

2. Print and cut out the label reading card below and keep it in your wallet to practice interpreting nutrition information every time you are doing the grocery shopping. Please keep in mind that the first time you read labels closely the shopping is likely to take you a few hours! Rest assured this will only be the first time. Once you know what the best choices are it will be much faster the next time.

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Nutrient

Best Choice

Fat, total

Less than 10.0g

-saturated

Less than 2.0g

-sugars

Less than 15.0g

Dietary Fibre

More than 8.0g

Sodium

Less than 400mg