How to Read Food Labels

Along with a list of ingredients, you will find a Nutrition Information Panel and possibly some nutrition claims.

How can you use this information?

Food labels can provide us with a huge amount of information to help us decide if a food or beverage is suitable to consume or not. Just be prepared to spend a lot longer in the supermarket initially. It can be helpful to check the labels of food you already have in the cupboard before visiting the supermarket. There are also supermarket tours available through some Diabetes NZ Branches that provide information on the different food groups, label reading tips and food marketing traps to avoid.

All food packages are legally required to have a Nutrition Information Pane (NIP) and a list of ingredients. The NIP and list of ingredients are not always on the same section of the label.

A NIP is required to provide nutrient content per serve and per 100g. Some foods provide nutrient information on different serving presentations such as breakfast cereals served with milk.

Specific nutrient information provided includes:
  • Energy content in calories and kilojoules
  • Protein content
  • Fat and saturated fat content
  • Total carbohydrate and sugar content
  • Sodium content

Some products also provide information on the fibre content but are not legally required to do this.

Per serve column

Use the per serve column to work out the amount of carbohydrate in a serve of that particular food.

List of Ingredients

All food packages include a list of ingredients but they are not always found as part of the nutrition information panel. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity from largest to smallest.

Per 100g column

The nutrient content per 100g column is the most useful column for working out if a product is suitable. Use the 100g column to compare similar products or to select foods based on specific guidelines. For example, to find the breakfast cereal with the highest fibre content, compare the fibre per 100g of different cereals.

The following guidelines will help select healthier food items based on their nutrient content:
  • Choose foods with less than 10g total fat per 100g
  • Choose foods with less than 2g saturated fat per 100g
  • Low fat yoghurt has less than 2g total fat per 100g
  • Low fat milk has less than 1g total fat per 100g
  • Choose foods with less than 10g sugar per 100g
  • Low sugar breakfast cereal and yoghurt have less than 15g sugar per 100g
  • Choose foods with more than 6g fibre per 100g
  • Food with low sodium content has less than 120mg per 100g
  • Food with high sodium content has more than 600mg per 100g

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