27 Feb Understanding Food Labels
Where packaged foods are placed in a supermarket can help provide clues as to whether certain foods are a healthier choices or not. However, this is only useful if its placement actually reflects the content of a food!
A recent article in the news found that products high in salt and saturated fats are being marketed as ‘healthy’ by supermarkets. It found that several supermarkets were stocking products high in salt and saturated fats in sections marked as ‘healthier choices’ and ‘diet meals’.
There isn’t anything wrong with consuming foods that are higher in fat, sugar or salt in moderation. However, it can be misleading when these foods as marketed as healthier choices in supermarkets.
The Royal Society for Public Health has highlighted the importance of clear information provided about products in supermarkets. However, there are several steps that we can take for ourselves to ensure that we are making informed choices around the foods we eat.
How do food labels work?
Most packaged foods will have food labels on either the front, side or back of packaging.
Checking labels is a great way to understand how much fat, sugar and salt are in our foods. Knowing this information can help us to look at making healthier swaps, from foods we are currently eating to a healthier option.
Food labels will have information on the number of grams of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt and the number of calories in a serving or portion of food.
When reading food labels, always base checking on per 100 grams as this enables us to make comparisons between similar foods. An item may say it only contains 10 grams of fat, but if the item is only 20 grams in total, it means that half the item is fat! Checking items per 100 grams can give us a clearer picture.
What do the numbers mean?
These guidelines tell us if a food is high in fat, sugar or salt:
High: more than 17.5g per 100g
Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g
High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g
High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
Using this quick guide can be really helpful when we go shopping to compare similar products. By seeing how products differ in their fat, sugar and salt content, we can start to make informed choices when choosing healthier options.
Want to know more?
This blog post is a mini introduction to learning to understand food labels. If you’re interested in learning more about nutrition and healthy eating alongside losing weight, why not see if you’re eligible for one of our programmes?
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