Decode your food labels

Today's news that UK food companies are likely to be publicly shamed if they do not reduce the amount of sugar in their food products, highlights the Government is continuing to struggle to get the food industry on-board. Its incremental target to reduce sugar content in common foods by 5% in 2017 was missed and its overall target of 2020 is clearly way off track.

Perhaps more importantly this news serves as a reminder that when we are trying to eat a healthy diet we need to be really vigilant when food shopping.

Ordinarily, we expect that ready meals and fast foods will be unhealthy and have higher sugar and salt content however, it's the everyday food products, such as breakfast cereal, yoghurt and milkshakes which we may think are healthy choices that are consistently high in sugar content.

It is important we read labels really carefully and understand what we are looking for.

The traffic light system is fairly useful. The colours indicate if the food product is low or high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Green is good, medium is okay in moderation and as part of a healthy diet and red is bad, so don’t eat too much of it.

However, some products don’t carry the traffic lights labelling as its not mandatory. So you need to to know how to read the nutritional information on the pack to really get a proper understanding of this. The way it works in terms of ingredients is the biggest ingredient is listed first, which means if the product has cream and butter at the start is likely to be a high fat choice.

This food label decoder which I found on the British Heart Foundation website is a really, handy guide.

Other things to think about when choosing products is the wording. Low fat means no more than 3g per 100g which is good choice, however, lower in fat simple means the product has 30% lower fat than a standard product, so depending on what you are buying will not necessarily mean it is a low fat choice.

Similar rule for sugar. No added sugar or unsweetened does not mean no sugar. It can still taste sweet and contain ingredients naturally high in sugar such as fat or milk.

The media named and shamed chain restaurant Toby Carvery as an offender of offerig a calorific product. Its freakshake contains 1,280 cals and 39 spoonfuls of sugar. That is six times the recommended amount for a 7 – 10 year old child.

Just think how long that would take you to burn that off? Easily 3 hours of running.

Calorie counting and careful food labelling is the key to maintaining a healthy diet and weight management and a fundamental part of my Get Healthy plan. Take a look I can help you with this.

Linda xx