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Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!
Megan - Health Promotion Specialist
March 20, 2016
Reading food labels can give you a lot of information about the food you’re eating and help you to make healthier choices. But with so much information on a label it can be hard to know what is helpful and what isn’t. Here we give you 5 quick tools to make your next shopping trip a little bit easier.
The manufacturer decides what a ‘serving’ is and this can vary between products. Put simply, it is one portion of that product. However, that doesn’t mean that the serving size is always sensible, or similar to what you think a serving is. For example, there are 4 scones in a packet, but the label states that this is 8 servings. Hence eating one scone, you are getting double the calories, fat and sugar (i.e. 2 serves).
This quick and easy guide helps to interpret labels. It rates foods in regards to the amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt they contain:
A food label may look something like this:
(This food is low in fat and saturates, high in sugar and has a moderate amount of salt)
This table explains how the nutrients in foods are coded for red, amber or green. It shows the amount per 100g of food. If a food label doesn’t display the ‘traffic lights’, you can still compare the nutrients in a food to these guidelines:Hint: When comparing two similar products (e.g. breakfast cereal) look at the ‘per 100g’ column (not per serve). This way you are comparing like for like.
Ingredients are listed in descending weight order – the one that weighs the most is listed first. If sugar, fat or salt (or one of their other names) appears in the first few ingredients, this may not be the healthiest choice.
You may also see a range of numbers in the ingredients list – not all of these are bad! For example, ‘E300’ refers to ascorbic acid = vitamin C! This is often used in pre-cut fruit to stop it from browning.
Beware of some of the tools used to encourage us to buy certain foods…
The ‘Reference Intake’ (previously known as the RDA (recommended daily amount) or GDA (guideline daily amount)), is displayed as a percentage on a food label. It tells us approximately how much energy and nutrients an average adult needs per day for a healthy diet.
For example, this food label shows that the sugar in one 45g portion provides 10.5g of sugar or 12% of your daily RI.
(Note: this product provides you with 12% of your RI for sugar, but is also considered ‘red’ or high in sugar as per the ‘traffic light system’ – don’t confuse these two different tools).
The percentages (%RI) are based on the maximum energy and nutrients that the average adult needs. These values are:
Order your free pocket-sized ‘traffic light’ card today – get in touch with our Health Information team: email firstname.lastname@example.org
***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.