02 Nov Understanding Food Lables and Eating for Health.

Healthy eating starts with knowing what we are putting in our mouths. For the everyday person interpreting GI ratings, ticks, logos and RDI’s is a bit of a nightmare. We need simple, relevant information that is reliable. It is important that we know how to read food labels so we can eat for good health.

Be Informed.

I seriously worry about the junk we are eating each day just because we don’t know the facts about what we are really consuming. This article is intended to help you become better informed and make choices that contribute to eating well and feeling great.


So many of us shop with good intentions but are not armed with information. Yoghurt is a great example of what can be a nutritional trap. Not all yoghurt is created equal. If you look at ‘Bulla Summer Berry’, it has the same number of kilojoules and more sugar than an ‘Almond Magnum!’ Or consider the health halo around fruit juice – a 350ml glass of apple juice has the equivalent to nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar. Then there is a spray oil. Did you know it is loaded with harsh chemicals including lighter fluid?

So in a society that is getting fatter and sicker, we really do need to get serious and get informed about what we are putting into our bodies.

Follow these easy steps to better understand your food labels:

Ingredient List.

Ingredients are listed in decreasing order by weight. In other words, the first ingredient is the major ingredient and the last ingredient would be much smaller. So if sugars, salt or fat are one of the first three ingredients on the list, the product may not be a healthy choice.

Nutrition Information Panel.


The Nutrition Information Panel on a food label offers the simplest and easiest way to help us make an informed choice. Refer to the nutritional panel for reference.

  1. Serving size. Pay close attention because the package, jar, or can may contain more than 1 serving. The serving size is often less than what most people eat so if you eat more than 1 serving, you get more of everything on the label — including fat, cholesterol, and calories.
  2. Total fat. This tells you how many grams (g) of fat are in 1 serving. Fat is high in calories. A healthy goal is to have less than 25% of your daily calories come from fat.
  3. Saturated fat. This tells you how much saturated fat is in 1 serving. Saturated fat raises your cholesterol the most. Look for foods that have little or no saturated fat.
  4. Trans fat. This tells you how much trans fat is in 1 serving. Even a small amount of trans fat can harm your health. Avoid foods that contain trans fat.
  5. Cholesterol. This tells you how much cholesterol is in 1 serving. It identifies cholesterol raising fats only; keep a look out for hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. As a guide try to eat less than 300mg per day.
  6. Calories from fat. If a high % of calories come from fat, eat sparingly. Total fat includes all different kinds of fat. To help lower blood cholesterol, avoid saturated, trans and polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fat is the way to go.
  7.  % Daily Value. This shows how much of the recommended amounts of these nutrients are in 1 serving.
  8. Sodium. Tells you how much salt is in food. Try to eat less than 2400mg or 2.4g of salt each day.
  9. Total Carbohydrate. Fibre and sugars are types of carbohydrate. Healthy sources like fruit, vegetables, beans and wholegrains can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve digestive functioning. There isn’t a % DV for sugar but you can compare the sugar content in grams among products. Limit food with ‘Added Sugar’ (sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn and maple syrup) Added sugar is the bad guy. Ideally look for food with 5g or less per serving.

Don’t be Fooled.

Routinely I see men and women shopping for their families, confused about what constitutes a healthy choice. It’s really difficult to choose a product on face value with so many loopholes that allow companies to ride on claims they are ‘all natural’ or ‘organic’ or ‘salt reduced’ or ‘low fat.’ These terms mean nothing if the food is packed full of sugar and vegetable oils.

At a Glance.

The products I get asked about all the time are breakfast cereals, yoghurt and snack food. These sections of the supermarket seem to grow each week. Too many choices can lead to us being caught up in the marketing jargon or choosing the one with the most popular packaging. Being certain you are making a nutritious selection can be hard. As a very general guide, anything under 3 grams of fat (paying more attention to saturated fats), 5 grams of sugar and 120 milligrams of sodium per 100gram serving and 3- 6 grams of fibre per serve, would be considered an excellent choice.

In an ideal world, it’s best to stay away from highly processed foods and to buy your food fresh. But with the busy lives we lead, convenience often wins. Regardless of this, take time to properly read your food labels to be sure of what you are placing into your body. After all, you own it!

Healthy Shopping Tours.

If you feel overwhelmed and are interested in learning more about making informed and nutritious food choices for you and your family, I conduct ‘Healthy Shopping Tours’ for both individuals and small groups so if you are interested please get in touch. http://www.chasingsunrise.com.au/contact/




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