How To Read Food Labels

Why is it important to be able to read a food label?

Food companies want you to think that their products are better than someone else’s so they try to trick you with sneaky marketing gimmicks. It’s important to be able to educate yourself and make your own decisions as to whether their product really is the best option.

The basics on a food label will be:

  • The brand
  • Where the product was made
  • Use by dates
  • The weight
  • Ingredients

On the ingredients label the first thing you will see is the energy.

The energy will be shown in kilojoules (Australia) or calories (America).  If you can only see kilojoules but need to know the calories simply divide the kilojoules by about 4.2 and that will give you a rough indication of the calories in that product.

You will then have your macro breakdown. This will be your proteins, fats and carbs.

  • The fats will be broken down into the types of fats (saturated, poly-unsaturated etc) with the majority being shown first.
  • The carbs will then be show the same way, breaking them down into sugars and fibre.
  • Next up is the protein.
  • Sodium (salt content)

Underneath these you will have a list of ingredients, this list is also in order of highest to lowest in terms of how much of the ingredient is in this product.

In this ingredient list, if there are two products mixed together as a compound they don’t have to list it.

The concerning thing  is that they could have multiple compound ingredients that are less than 5% in total, and they don’t need to tell you what it is.

There are a list of things that food companies need to declare regardless of the percentage and that’s high allergen foods. So, fish products, nuts, milks and things that people are normally allergic to.

If you are buying fresh food such as bread or pasta they don’t have to disclose on packaging what’s in that product. However, you have a right to ask what the ingredients are and legally they have to be able to tell you what’s in that product to be able to sell it.

Don’t be fooled by packaging. It might look pretty. It might seem like it’s the best option, that it’s low-fat, low carb but it may not be. Start to get into the habit of reading labels and education yourself on whats best for you.

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