Whether you’ve just gone keto or you want to do the checks and balances for your diet, reading a nutrition label is an essential life skill.
Located on the back of every box and wrapper that you’ve ever consumed from, the humble nutrition label, also known as a nutrition information panel, contains a wealth of information that you need to know about in order to lose weight, avoid certain ingredients or simply to understand more about the food you are eating.
In 1991 Commonwealth legislation made food labelling compulsory Australia-wide with a stringent set of guidelines and rules for food companies to follow. Being able to read a nutrition label is an essential skill for life, but we know it can be pretty darn confusing. Read on to learn more and understand what you’re putting into your body.
The serving size on a package is determined by the food business. Serving sizes can sometimes be deceiving with some chip packets claiming to contain up to 10 servings making us question whether the business has ever eaten a packet of chips.
Quantity per 100 g
The quantity per 100 g makes it easy to compare the nutrients across different brands of the same product. The quantity per 100 g is the same as the percentage for that nutrient, for example 20 g of sugar per 100 g is the same as 20% sugar.
Carbs get a bad rap, but they are essential for a well-balanced diet and healthy body. The amount of carbohydrate on the nutrition label includes starches and sugars. Foods such as white bread and pasta contain higher amounts of starches compared to vegetables such as spinach or baby corn.
Sugars are simple carbohydrates and the amount displayed on a nutrition label includes both naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. It is important to note that while some products highlight that they contain no added sugar they may contain high levels of natural sugars.
Contrary to popular belief eating protein will not make you instantly bulk. Protein is an essential nutrient for good health which leaves you feeling fuller for longer. Proteins are full of amino acids which are necessary for muscle repair and growth among other roles.
The total fat in a product is the combined amount of saturated fats, trans fat, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. The amount of saturated fats must also be listed separately- these are the ones to avoid as they can increase your risk of heart disease if consumed in excess.
A small amount of fat, especially monounsaturated polyunsaturated fats, is necessary for a healthy, balanced diet. Fat helps the body absorb some vitamins and provides a source of essential fatty acids.
Sodium is a component of salt. Some companies add sodium to their products to make them more tasty, however consuming too much sodium has been linked with high blood pressure and stroke.
Fun fact: the only foods that don’t require a nutrition label are foods sold unpackaged or in very small packaging, foods made and packaged at the same point of sale and herbs, spices, packaged water, tea and coffee because they have no significant nutritional value.
Next time you are in the supermarket you can compare more than just price and you will know how to fuel up with foods to help you hit all your nutritional goals.