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Your guide to understanding nutrition labels: How to read the back of your packaged foods

With claims plastered everywhere, reading food and nutrition labels can sometimes feel like a minefield.

But if you can find out what they mean, they can be very useful in making healthier choices when buying packaged food.

Although food labels can contain many different types of information, the nutrition information panel is the most important thing to look at when choosing healthy food.

This provides the simplest and easiest way to choose foods with less saturated fat, salt (sodium), added sugars and kilojoules and more fiber.

With claims plastered everywhere, reading food and nutrition labels can sometimes feel like a minefield, but they can be useful (stock image)

With claims plastered everywhere, reading food and nutrition labels can sometimes feel like a minefield, but they can be useful (stock image)

THE POWER SUPPLY PANEL

Portion size

When reading the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) pay close attention to the portion size, the number of portions per package and the distribution of nutrients in the product.

The column per 100 g is useful here when comparing the nutrients between products, because portion sizes are easily specified by the manufacturer and can vary from product to product.

Energy

The second thing to take into account the NIP is energy, which is measured in kilojoules (kJ) or calories.

The NDSS reports that the amount of energy that each of us needs depends on many factors and will vary from person to person.

You must limit your intake of discretionary or junk food, that is, food with more than 600 kJ per serving.

Although carbohydrates aren't bad for you, keep an eye on them because the words 'total carbohydrates' contain both sugars and starches in food (stock image)

Although carbohydrates aren't bad for you, keep an eye on them because the words 'total carbohydrates' contain both sugars and starches in food (stock image)

Although carbohydrates aren’t bad for you, keep an eye on them because the words ‘total carbohydrates’ contain both sugars and starches in food (stock image)

Fat

If you are looking for a healthy and nutritious dietary decision, it is vital that you look at the amount of fat that a product contains.

How much fat

* Aim for less than 10 g per 100 g with the total fat.

* Find less than 2 g per 100 g with milk and yogurt and choose less than 15 g per 100 g for cheese.

* Saturated fat must be limited to less than 3 g per 100 g.

” Total fat ‘includes all polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans fats in the food. It is important to consider both the amount and type of fat, “reports the NDSS.

With the total amount of fat, Eat for health recommends that you aim for less than 10 grams per 100 grams.

Search for less than 2 g per 100 g with milk and yogurt and choose less than 15 g per 100 g for cheese.

Saturated fat is the worst type and should be limited to less than 3 g per 100 g.

What are the other words that food labels often use for sugar?

* Dextrose

* Fructose

* Glucose

* Golden / maple syrup

*Honey

* Maple syrup

* Sucrose

* Malt

* Maltose,

* Lactose

* Brown / caster sugar / raw sugar

carbohydrates

Although carbohydrates are not bad for you, you must keep an eye on them, because the words “total carbohydrates” include both sugars and starches in food.

The amount of ‘sugars’ indicates how much of the total carbohydrates consists of sugars.

It contains both added sugars and natural sugars such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruit.

Keep this low to stay healthy and if you want to know quickly how much of your food is sugar, check the ingredient list.

If sugar or any of the other words for sugar such as stevia, fructose, glucose, syrup or honey are mentioned as one of the first, you know you’re in trouble.

Sodium

How much salt?

* Choose products with less than 120 mg per 100 g.

Sodium is one of the most important things to watch on the NIP.

Where possible, choose products with ‘reduced’ or ‘no added’ salt.

You can also choose products with less than 120 mg per 100 g.

THE INGREDIENT LIST

If you want to quickly see what a product has, look in the ingredient list – all ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight.

If sugar or fat or one of their ‘other names’ is at the top of the list, chances are that packaged food is not that good for you.

As a general rule of thumb, choose products with whole, natural ingredients and try to choose packaged foods with small lists.

THE CLAIMS

Food manufacturers often use nutrition claims on their packaging to attract the customer’s attention.

Although the claim may be true, it can also be misleading – so it is useful to know the meaning of nutrition claims.

Less salt

With the ‘reduced salt’ label you may be able to grab the item and put it in your shopping cart, but you don’t have to be that fast without consulting the label.

Less salt only means that the product contains at least 25 percent less salt than the normal product.

The version with reduced salt content can, however, still have a high salt content.

Light or light

You could see these words and assume that they refer to a reduced fat content.

But this can also be used to describe taste, texture or color in a food.

For example, light olive oil is lighter in color and taste, but no less fat.

You may see the words light or lite and assume that they refer to a reduced fat content, but they can also be used to describe taste, texture or color in a food (stock image)

You may see the words light or lite and assume that they refer to a reduced fat content, but they can also be used to describe taste, texture or color in a food (stock image)

You may see the words light or lite and assume that they refer to a reduced fat content, but they can also be used to describe taste, texture or color in a food (stock image)

No added sugar

This means that the product contains no added sugars, such as sucrose, honey or glucose.

But the product can still contain natural sugars, such as milk (lactose), fruit (fructose) or other carbohydrates, all of which can affect your blood sugar levels.

Less fat

Like a reduced salt label, a reduced fat label means that the product contains at least 25 percent less fat than the normal product.

However, this does not mean that it is low in fat.

HEALTH STAR ASSESSMENT SYSTEM

The last thing to look at is the Health Star Rating system, designed to help you choose healthier foods at a glance.

Packaged foods are rated between half and 5 stars.

The assessment is calculated based on ingredients that increase the risk of obesity and contribute to other chronic diseases. The more stars, the healthier the product.

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