Nutrition label: Understanding food facts
A nutrition label is a shopping list within a shopping list. Each item you pick off the shelves has its own very critical list, one that can be the difference between good health and bad health; allergies or no allergies.
Why are nutrition labels required?
Nutrition labels apply mainly to food items, but even that innocent looking laundry detergent can make you break out in spots if you don’t read the small print.
In Australia, we’re lucky to have regulations to ensure all manufactured goods are transparent in their labelling. In other words, what you see is what you get; no secret ingredients. That way you can make educated decisions about your purchases; well, educated decisions if you know what all the stuff on that label actually means.
So here are a few ways to decipher what you read. And if you’ve been going to the supermarket without your glasses or ignoring nutrition labels, it’s time to get focussed. Put those specs and specifications in the forefront first!
Where are the macronutrients located on a nutritional label?
Heard about counting macros but unsure what exactly macronutrients are and the role they play in a balanced, healthy diet?
Learn all about macronutrients in our previous blog post.
How to read nutrition labels?
Before learning how to read nutrition facts specified on the labels, it is necessary to find out exactly what sort of facts are mentioned on a nutrition label. The short answer is a whole lot; hence most product labelling consists of nutrition facts in a tiny print.
Your average nutrition label will contain information about:
- The product name
- The brand name
- The use by date or best before date
- Manufacturer details
- Country of origin
- Nutritional information
- Allergy information
- Storage instructions.
That’s pretty much a resume’s - worth of information crammed into a tiny label, some of which you can ignore. So let’s break down the important bit – nutritional information.
What is nutritional information?
Well, it’s the nutrients – if any – contained in a packet, box or bottle of manufactured produce. It should detail the product’s energy, fat content, saturated fat content, carbohydrates, sugar, fibre, and sodium (salt).
If it’s a particularly helpful label, it will feature useful information such as ‘gluten-free,’ high fibre,’ ‘reduced salt,’ ‘low in sugar’ or ‘low fat.’ In most cases, you can trust these claims as they can only be made if the product in question meets strict government criteria.
You may also want to steer clear of these 10 processed foods that are bad for you.
The best labels will also tell you what percentage of your daily dose of nutrients one serving represents; a big help if you’re chasing a very specific and balanced diet.
A basic rule of thumb: if a product has a high fat, sugar or sodium content, avoid it. As for saturated fats, some are actually good for you, so do your homework and know which ones to steer clear of.