Jump to page content

A quick guide to label reading

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! 

A traffic light label reading green on fat, red on sugars and orange on salt
Traffic lights give a quick overview

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. 

A nutrition label for jam
Decoding the back of the pack

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.  

Image result for food label decoder

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.

An ingredients list on a box
Understanding the ingredients list

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. 

A crunch bar marked as sugar free
Debunking nutrition claims

You will see marketing claims such as ‘low fat’ or ‘light’ on lots of food packets. But what do these terms actually mean? 

  • Light, Lite or Reduced – 30% or lower in a certain value such as energy (calories) or fat, in comparison to alternatives 
  • Low fat, low sugar, or low salt – there is a low level of this value in the food and will be coded green on the label. Don’t automatically assume these foods are the healthiest option though, as they may still be high in other values 
  • No added sugar: Any sweet taste in the food will come from natural sugars or artificial sweeteners 
  • Unsweetened: No sugar or sweetener added, but there may be natural sugars 
  • Source of fibre/high fibreSource of fibre’ foods contains 3g of fibre per 100g, and ‘high fibre’ foods contain 6g or more per 100g. The recommendation is to consume 30g of fibre per day.  

Join your nearest BeeZee Bodies group to learn more!

Get started