NUTRITION PANEL

Serving size

When reading the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP), pay close attention to serving sizes, number of servings per package, and the breakdown of nutrients in products.

The per 100g column is especially useful here when you’re comparing nutrients between products, as serving sizes are stated only by the manufacturer and may vary from product to product.

Energy

The second thing to note on the NIP is energy, which is measured in kilojoules (kJ) or calories.

It NDSS reports that the amount of energy each of us needs depends on many factors and will vary from person to person.

You should limit your intake of extra or junk food – i.e. foods that have more than 600kJ per serving.

While carbs aren't bad for you, you should pay attention to them because the word 'total carbs' includes both sugars and starches in food (stock image)

While carbs aren’t bad for you, you should pay attention to them because the word ‘total carbs’ includes both sugars and starches in food (stock image)

Fat

If you want to make healthy and nutritious food decisions, it is important that you look at the amount of fat a product has.

How much fat?

* Aim for less than 10g per 100g of total fat.

* With milk and yogurt, look for less than 2g per 100g, and with cheese, choose less than 15g per 100g.

* Saturated fat should be limited to less than 3g per 100g.

“Total fat” includes all polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans fats in the diet. It is important to consider the amount and type of fat,’ reports the NDSS.

With total fat, Eat For Health recommends you should aim for less than 10g per 100g.

With milk and yogurt, look for less than 2g per 100g, and with cheese, go for less than 15g per 100g.

Saturated fat is the worst kind, and should be limited to less than 3g per 100g.

What other words are often used on food labels for sugar?

* Dextrose

*Fructose

* Glucose

* Gold/maple syrup

*Honey

* Maple syrup

*Sucrose

* Malta

* Maltose,

* Lactose

* Brown/caster/raw sugar

Carbohydrate

While carbs aren’t bad for you, you should pay attention to them because the word ‘total carbs’ includes both sugars and starches in food.

The amount of ‘sugar’ tells you how much of the total carbohydrate consists of sugar.

This includes added sugars and natural sugars such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruit.

Keep these healthy and if you want a quick way to identify how much sugar your food contains, check out the ingredient list.

If sugar or one of the other words for sugar like stevia, fructose, glucose, syrup or honey is one of the first to list, you know you’re in trouble.

Sodium

How much salt?

* Choose products with under 120mg per 100g.

Sodium is one of the most important things to look at in NIP.

If possible, choose products with ‘reduced’ or ‘no added’ salt.

Or, choose a product with under 120mg per 100g.

INGREDIENTS

If you want to quickly see what’s in a product, check the ingredients list – which should see all ingredients listed in descending order by weight.

If sugar or fat or one of their ‘other names’ is at the top of the list, then packaged foods are probably not so good for you.

As a general rule, choose products with whole, natural ingredients and try to choose packaged foods with small lists.

CLAIMS

Food manufacturers often use nutritional claims on their packaging to attract buyers’ attention.

While that claim may be true, it can also be misleading – so it’s important to know what the nutritional claims mean.

Reduce salt

A ‘reduce salt’ label might have you grabbing an item and placing it in your shopping cart, but you shouldn’t go too fast without consulting the label.

Reducing salt simply means the product contains at least 25 percent less salt than regular products.

However, the reduced salt version may still have a high salt content.

Light or light

You may see these words and think they refer to reduced fat content.

But it can also be used to describe the taste, texture or color of a food.

For example, light olive oil has a lighter color and taste, but is not lower in fat.

You may see the words light or light and think of them as referring to reduced fat content, but they can also be used to describe the taste, texture, or color of food (stock image)

You may see the words light or light and think of them as referring to reduced fat content, but they can also be used to describe the taste, texture, or color of food (stock image)

No added sugar

This means the product does not contain added sugars, such as sucrose, honey or glucose.

But the item may still contain natural sugars, such as milk (lactose), fruit (fructose) or other carbohydrates, all of which can affect your blood glucose levels.

Reduce fat

Like a reduced salt label, a reduced fat label means the product contains at least 25 percent less fat than regular products.

However, that does not mean low fat.

HEALTH STAR RATING SYSTEM

The last thing to look at is the Health Star Rating System, which is designed to help you choose healthier foods at a glance.

Packaged foods are rated between half and 5 stars.

Ratings are calculated based on ingredients that increase the risk of obesity and contribute to other chronic diseases. The more stars, the healthier the product.

By Blanca

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