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How to .. Read food labels

So you go to the supermarket and with the best intentions, you turn over the labels of two products to read the nutrition label to see which is better... and you start thinking "What am i actually looking for?"

Believe me, you’re not alone!!! I used to look at nutrition labels as if they were in a foreign language. Hopefully the below will help you to be able to decipher them a bit easier.

Firstly, each label will have a per serve amount and a per 100g measure. Always look at the per 100g column – this allows for comparison between products as each product will have a different suggested serving size.


The ingredients are listed from greatest amount to smallest. Use this to check the first three ingredients for foods that are high in salt, sugar or saturated fat.


Sugar will come under carbohydrates. Look for products with less than 10g of sugar per 100g. If the product contains fruit allow for 20g per 100g

Nutrition label.jpg

Other names for Sugar

  • Dextrose

  • Fructose

  • Glucose

  • Gloden syrup

  • Honey

  • Maple syrup

  • Sucrose

  • Malt

  • Maltose

  • Lactose

  • Brown sugar

  • Caster sugar

  • Maple syrup

  • Raw sugar

  • Sucrose


Under fat, there will be monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans and saturated.

Look for products with less than 10g of total fat per 100g.

For milk, yoghurt and ice cream choose products less than 2g per 100 and for cheese less than 15g per 100g.

Aim for the lowest saturated fat content when comparing products, Less than 3g per 100g is the best


Other names for Fat

  • Animal Fat

  • Beef fat

  • Butter

  • Chocolate

  • Milk solids

  • Coconut

  • Coconut oil/meat/cream

  • Copha

  • Cream

  • Ghee

  • Dripping

  • Lard

  • Vegetable shortening


If a product contains 3-6g of fiber per serve than this is a high fiber product. Aim for the highest fiber content.


Try to look for “low salt” or “reduced salt” products. Look for products with less than 400g per 100g. A product can claim to be low salt if there is less than 120g of sodium per 100g.

Other Names for Salt (sodium)

  • Baking powder

  • Celery salt

  • Garlic salt

  • Meat/yeast extract

  • Monosodium glutamate

  • Onion salt

  • Rock salt

  • Sodium ascorbate

  • Sodium bicardonate

  • Sodium nitrate

  • Stock cubes

  • Vegetable salt


  • High protein - Must contain at least 10g of protein per serving

  • Sugar free - Less than 5g of sugar per serve

  • Light for fat - 50% less fat than a comparable product

  • Light for calories - 33% less than comparable product and 50% less fat

  • Light for sodium - 50% less than a comparable product

  • Low-fat - 3g or less per serving for solid foods, 1.5g for liquid foods.

  • Low-calorie - 40 or less calories per serving

  • Low-sodium (low salt) - 120mg or less per serving

  • Low-cholesterol - 20mg of less per serving

  • Fat free - Must be less than 0.15% fat

  • Low-saturated fat - 1g or less per serving

  • No added sugar - Product must not contain added sugar but may contain natural sugar

  • Reduced fat or salt - Must be at least 25% reduction from the original product

  • Good source of a particular nutrient - Must contain no less than 25% of the RDA for that particular vitamin or mineral.

  • High Fiber - At least 3g of fiber per 100g

  • Source of fiber- More than 1g of fiber per 100g can be claimed to be a good source of fiber.

  • “Light” or “lite” - This does not necessarily mean low in energy or kilojoules. It may mean light in colour, lightly toasted, light in salt, light in taste. So the product must say what it is light in.


Best before – food with a shelf life of less than 2 years have a best before date. It may still be safe to use these foods after this date, but they have lost some of their nutritional value.

Use by – Foods that should not be consumed after a certain period of time for health and safety reasons. This is generally meat and dairy products.

I hope the above is helpful and you now feel a bit more equiped to be able to look at different food labels and be able to choose the best options :)

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