THE NUTRITION PANEL
When reading the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP), pay close attention to the serving size, number of servings per package, and distribution of nutrients in the product.
The per 100g column is useful here when comparing nutrients between products, as serving sizes are simply declared by the manufacturer and may vary from product to product.
The second thing to consider on the PIN is energy, which is measured in kilojoules (kJ) or calories.
The NDSS reports that the amount of energy each of us needs depends on many factors and varies from person to person.
You should limit your intake of discretionary or junk foods – that is, those that contain more than 600 kJ per serving.
Although carbs aren’t bad for you, you need to watch them because the words ‘total carbs’ include both sugars and starches in foods (stock image)
If you’re looking to make a healthy and nutritious food decision, it’s essential that you look at how much fat a product contains.
How much fat?
*Aim for less than 10g per 100g with total fat.
* With milk and yoghurts, look for less than 2g per 100g, and with cheese, go for those with less than 15g per 100g.
* Saturated fat should be limited to less than 3g per 100g.
“Total fat” includes all polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans fats in foods. It is important to consider both the amount and the type of fat,” reports the NDSS.
With the total amount of fat, Eat for health recommends aiming for less than 10g per 100g.
With milk and yoghurts, look for less than 2g per 100g, and with cheese, go for those with less than 15g per 100g.
Saturated fats are the worst of all and should be limited to less than 3g per 100g.
What other words do food labels often use to refer to sugar?
* Golden/maple syrup
* Maple syrup
* Brown/powdered/raw sugar
Although carbs aren’t bad for you, you should watch them because the words “total carbs” include both sugars and starches in foods.
The amount of “sugars” tells you how much of your total carbs is made up of sugars.
It includes both added sugars and natural sugars such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruit.
Keep them to stay healthy, and if you want a quick way to identify how much sugar is in your food, check the ingredient list.
If sugar or any of the other words for sugar like stevia, fructose, glucose, syrup, or honey are one of the first to be listed, you know you’re in trouble.
How much salt?
* Choose products containing less than 120 mg per 100 g.
Sodium is one of the most important things to look at on the PIN.
Whenever possible, choose products with “reduction” or “no added salt”.
Otherwise, choose products containing less than 120 mg per 100 g.
THE LIST OF INGREDIENTS
If you want to quickly see what a product contains, check the ingredient list – which should see all ingredients listed in descending order of weight.
If sugar or fat or any of their “other names” are high on the list, chances are packaged foods aren’t so good for you.
As a general rule, go for products with whole, natural ingredients and try to choose foods that are packaged with small lists.
Food manufacturers often use nutrition claims on their packaging to grab the buyer’s attention.
Although the claim may be true, it may also be misleading. It is therefore useful to know the meaning of nutritional claims.
Reduced in salt
The “reduced in salt” label may prompt you to pick up the item and put it in your shopping cart, but you shouldn’t be that quick without checking the label.
Reduced salt content simply means that the product contains at least 25% less salt than the regular product.
However, the reduced-salt version may still have a high salt content.
light or light
You might see these words and assume they refer to reduced fat.
But it can also be used to describe the taste, texture or color of a food.
For example, light olive oil has a lighter color and taste, but no less fat.
You may see the words light or lite and assume they refer to reduced fat, but they can also be used to describe the taste, texture or color of a food (stock image)
No added sugar
This means that the product does not contain added sugars, such as sucrose, honey or glucose.
But the item may still contain natural sugars, such as milk (lactose), fruit (fructose), or other carbohydrates, all of which can affect your blood sugar.
Like a reduced salt label, a reduced fat label means that the product contains at least 25% less fat than the regular product.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s low in fat.
HEALTH STAR RATING SYSTEM
The final thing to check out is the Health Star rating system, which is designed to help you choose healthier foods at a glance.
Packaged foods are rated between a half and 5 stars.
The rating is calculated based on ingredients that increase the risk of obesity and contribute to other chronic diseases. The more stars, the healthier the product.