Top Ten Tips on Nutrition Labelling
Food labels can be confusing and at times misleading. Here Kathryn Morris and Beatie Mackinnon from the Food Partnership’s Community Nutrition team take us through nutrition labels… Per portion, per 100g, GDA, RDA – what do they all mean?!
1 Why are they handy? Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging. Nutrition labels can help you choose between products, and keep a check on the amount of foods high in fat, salt and added sugars that you’re eating. You can use nutrition labels to help you choose a more balanced diet.
Traffic light colour coding Some front of pack nutrition labels use traffic light colour coding – red, amber and green. Traffic light colour coding tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. So, the more green lights, the healthier the choice. Amber lights means neither high nor low, so you can eat foods with all or mostly amber lights most of the time. But a red light means the food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugars and these are the foods we should try to reduce our intake of, and have in small amounts.
2 Per 100g.. The problem with ‘front-of-pack’ labels used by food manufacturers and supermarkets such as the traffic light system is that they are not consistent across shops or products. Therefore using ‘back of pack’ labels and looking at the 100g column is useful for comparing products or different varieties of the same product.
18 city food news
3 What to check? There are 4 key points when checking the label: Total fat Any fat, whether unsaturated or saturated, carries the same number of calories, which in turn can lead to excessive weight gain. High: more than 20g of fat per 100g Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g Saturated fat These are the fats that can clog up our arteries and so increase our risk of heart disease. High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g
4 Portion / Serving Size… What does a ‘portion’ of food mean? Quantities such as portion or serving sizes are up to the discretion of the manufacturer. Increasingly consumers want guidance and information on portion sizes. A recent study was conducted of 13,000 consumers, by the University of Surrey. They found that nearly half those surveyed felt labelling information on portion sizes was relevant. When asked ‘what is a portion size?’ most responded sensibly with suggestions such as ‘the amount of food for one person’. However, people’s portion sizes differ. Manufacturers often give a very small portion size on a label in order to make their product seem lower in calories and fat. The portion you eat could be considerably larger though. A ‘manufacturers portion’ of sugary
Carbohydrate of which sugars High: more than 15g of total sugars per 100g Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g Salt Diets high in salt can cause high blood pressure. High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium) Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
Names for added sugars Sucrose, Glucose, Dextrose, Malt,
Maltose, Molasses, Honey, Syrup Information and images taken from: NHS Choices (2011) [website] www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/food-labelling.aspx
cereal looks lost in the average-sized cereal bowl!
5 A note on sugars…. Some products such as a pack of fresh pineapple or natural yoghurt will show a red or amber traffic light for sugar on the quick glance label. This is due to fructose and lactose which are natural sugars in fruit or milk products. We do not need to worry about these sugars; it is only the sugar added to foods that we should aim to reduce. The table on this page
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