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  • Writer's picturehealthyyou4life

How to read food labels

Although we tend to expect that ready meals and fast foods will be unhealthier than cooking from scratch and have higher sugar and salt content we often forget everyday food products which we think are healthy choices such as breakfast cereal, yoghurt and milkshakes can be consistently high in sugar content.

It is important to read labels carefully and understand what we should be looking for in terms of fat, protein, carbs, nutrients,as well as sugar and salt levels.

The traffic light system used by many food companies is fairly useful. Colours indicate if the food product is low or high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Green is good, medium is okayish in moderation and red bad so don’t eat too much of it.

“Green is good, amber is okayish in moderation and red is bad so don't eat too much of it"

But be aware that companies can chose what measures they set this against. For example they can set the percentage of fat off against any grams they chose, or even create a per portion size which means it can start to feel a bit confusing.

Some products don’t use the traffic light labelling system so understanding how to read the nutritional info on the pack is useful. The way it works in terms of ingredients is the biggest ingredient is listed first, which means that if the product has cream and butter at the start of the list it is likely to be a high fat choice.

There is a food label decoder on the British Heart Foundation website which is a really handy guide.

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

Similarly with sugar. No added sugar or unsweetened does not mean no sugar. It can

still contain ingredients naturally high in sugar. Calorie counting is all well and good if you are trying to lose or maintain weight but carefully reading your food labelling is part of the key to maintain a healthy diet. Happy healthy eating!

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