Most people are aware of the traffic light system, but there is actually a lot more to labels than first meets the eye! Lots of our clients tell us that learning more about food labels is one of the most valuable things they take away from BeeZee Bodies sessions, so we thought we’d spread the label love with a quick guide to label reading. Bookmark this page for reference next time you’re in the supermarket and make healthy choices a piece of cake!
On the front of the pack you will often see a traffic light label. This is telling you the nutritional information per serving. A recommended serving can often be different from how much we want to eat, so keep an eye on it. For example, the food label on the front of a 100g bag of nuts may say “150 calories” but if that’s just for a 25g serving size, and you end up eating half the bag, you’ve actually eaten 300 calories!
The traffic light colours tell you whether a food is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. The more green on the label, often the healthier it is! Ambers are fine to have fairly frequently – just be aware this range is quite wide though; some foods can fall just below the cut off for a red.
On the back of the pack you’ll find a bit more detailed nutritional information, both per serving and per 100g. By looking at foods per 100g you can easily compare different products to find the option lower in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.
You can use this handy food label decoder to work out how healthy a food is.
Or if you have a smartphone, download the Food Switch app which lets you scan an item’s barcode with your phone’s camera to decode the label for you and offer some healthier alternatives.
All pre-packed foods show a list of ingredients on the packaging. Ingredients are listed in order of weight from heaviest to lightest. Therefore, the main ingredients in a food always come first. So, if one of the first ingredients is sugar you know it might not be the best option.
Sugar can also come under other names, so be careful. To name a few: sucrose, glucose, fructose, agave nectar, galactose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, maltose, lactose, dextrose, honey, malt syrup and molasses.
You will see marketing claims such as ‘low fat’ or ‘light’ on lots of food packets. But what do these terms actually mean?