Food labels are a useful tool when it comes to choosing which products to buy. The majority of food products have nutrition panels. The only exceptions are foods that don’t come in packaging such as fruit and vegetables, food that is packaged at the point of sale or foods that carry little nutritional value such as tea. My aim of this post is to give a brief overview of how to use these food labels most effectively. So go to your pantry now and find any food product with a label and have a look for these things.
The ingredients list
The ingredients are arranged with the most predominant used in the product to the ingredient with the least amount used. This includes any additives and preservatives. Each preservative and additive has a number written next to it, these numbers can be used to look up and reference what that particular additive does in the food additives list provided by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. The ingredients list is a quick reference for what the product is made up of and in what proportions. This is also vitally important for people with food allergies.
Food companies are required to make the consumer aware of any allergy causing ingredients used in their products. This statement can usually be found near the ingredients list. In addition to this the phrase ‘May contain traces of…’ is used when the manufacturer thinks that there is a chance that small amounts of an allergy causing food could be present.
The Nutrition Information Panel
This is made up of a number of things.
- Average serving size= This number is decided on by the manufacturer of the food product. It is what they recommend is what one adult would eat in one meal. it can often be unrealistic (I’m not aware of anyone who only eats 3 chocolate malt balls at a time).
-Serving per package= The number of the nominated servings that you can get out of a pack.
-In the nutrition information table there are at least 3 columns. The first column lists the nutrients that contribute to the total energy measured in kilojoules (kJ), as well as other significant nutrients measured generally in grams (g) or milligrams (mg). The second column is ‘quantity per serve’ these are the numerical values that correspond to the nutrients in the first column. They are based on the nominated serving size. The third column is ‘quantity per 100g’ and this also contains the numerical values corresponding to how much of each nutrient is in 100g of product. The per serve column is useful to determine home many kilojoules you are consuming. The per 100g column is a helpful tool when comparing similar products from different brands.
-Some packaging contains a % daily intake per serving and this can be deceiving because it is calculated for a specific height, weight and activity level. I don’t think I have ever based a product selection on this information because only being not very tall and female the information if irrelevant to me.
This is only a brief post and I think I will have to write another one like this with more detail in the future.
I hope you have found this helpful,