Reading Food Labels
Food labels help us to decide between food products and let us check if the foods we are eating are high in fat, salt and added sugars.
Most packaged foods have a nutrition label on the back or side. The information is usually provided per 100g, 100ml and/or per portion.
You can use food labels to help make better food choices
How do I know if a food is high in fat, salt or sugar?
Red amber and green colour coding
Some front-of-pack nutrition labels use red, amber and green colour coding.
Colour coded nutritional information ells you at a glance if the food contains high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.
The traffic light system shows:
RED means high – you should try to have these less often and in smaller amounts
AMBER means medium – you can have these most of the time
GREEN means low – the more greens on the label, the healthier the choice
Food shopping tips
If you are standing in the supermarket looking at two similar products trying to decide which to choose. You want to make a healthier choice but you are short of time.
If the nutrition label uses colour coding you will often find a mixture of red, amber and green. So, when trying to make a healthier choice try to go for the one with more greens and ambers and fewer reds.
Clever marketing tricks
Beware of some of the tools used to encourage us to buy certain foods…
‘Lite’ or ‘light’: means this food contains 30% less of one nutrient. For example, it could contain 30% less fat than the standard product. Hint: sometimes it can also mean ‘light’ in colour!
Low fat and reduced fat isn’t the same thing. Low fat means that there is 3g (or less) of fat per 100g of food (or a ‘green light’). Reduced fat means there is 25% less fat compared to the original product. Just because a food is labelled as ‘reduced fat’ doesn’t mean you can eat more of it.
Check foods labelled as ‘low fat’ as they might be higher in sugar (to make it taste better).