A Guide to Reading Food Labels and Making Informed Choices

Tips for Understanding the Ingredient List

When it comes to buying food products, it’s important to check the ingredient list to ensure that you’re aware of what you’re consuming. Understanding the ingredient list and nutrition facts label is necessary for maintaining a healthy diet.

Here are some tips to help you make sense of the ingredient list:

  1. Check the order of ingredients: The ingredients list is sorted by the amount of each ingredient included, from highest to lowest. The first ingredient listed is the one in the highest quantity.

  2. Look out for unfamiliar ingredients: Check for synthetic trans fats, solid fats, high amounts of salt, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate. Always aim for a shorter ingredient list, as it’s generally better.

  3. Check for food additives: If you’re buying prepackaged food, check for food additives coded with E numbers, especially if it’s something you consume regularly.

  4. Examine the nutrition facts: Check for total fat, saturated fat, and serving size.

  5. Understand food labelling terms: “Low fat” or “light” on a label means that the product contains at least 30% less fat than a similar product, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s low in calories. Sometimes, the fat is replaced with sugar, so check the nutrition label to be sure of the fat and energy content.

By following these tips, you can better understand the ingredient list and make informed decisions about the food you consume.

Understanding Nutrition Facts and Serving Sizes

In addition to checking the ingredient list, it’s important to also examine the nutrition facts and serving size on the label. Here’s what you need to know:

Total Fat:

  • High fat: More than 17.5g of fat per 100g
  • Low fat: 3g of fat or less per 100g, or 1.5g of fat per 100ml for liquids (1.8g of fat per 100ml for semi-skimmed milk)
  • Fat-free: 0.5g of fat or less per 100g or 100ml

Saturated Fat:

  • High in saturated fat: More than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
  • Low in saturated fat: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g or 0.75g per 100ml for liquids
  • Saturated fat-free: 0.1g of saturated fat per 100g or 100ml

‘Lower Fat’ Labels:

For a product to be labeled as “lower fat,” “reduced fat,” or “light,” it must contain at least 30% less fat than a similar product. However, these foods aren’t necessarily low in calories. Sometimes, the fat is replaced with sugar, which can result in a similar energy content. To be sure of the fat content and energy content, always check the nutrition label on the package.

Understanding Serving Sizes:

It’s also important to pay attention to serving sizes on the label. The serving size determines the amount of nutrients listed on the label. For example, if a serving size is 1 cup and you consume 2 cups, you will need to double the nutrient values listed on the label to accurately determine how much you are consuming.

In summary, checking both the ingredient list and nutrition facts label is crucial for making informed decisions about the food you consume. By understanding serving sizes and the different types of fats, you can make healthier choices and maintain a balanced diet.

References
  1. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/different-fats-nutrition/
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-labelling-terms/#fat

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