Reading Between The Food Labels
With more than 20,000 supermarket stock items available to us, an understanding on ‘Reading Between the Food Labels” will help you make healthy choices.
The introduction of the Food Standards Code on 20 December 2002 for manufactured and packaged foods in Australia and New Zealand has made Reading Food Labels easier to understand. By law most food labels must now provide certain information.
The example below for “Macadamian Slice Biscuits” demonstrates the information that is required on food labels and how this information can be interpreted:
Making Sense of the Nutrition Claims
1. Labels must tell the truth!
Supplies must label food products with accurate minimum weights and measures information. Manufacturers can face fines of up to $100,000 for misleading or incorrect labeling of food products.
The name or description of the product should not be misleading. For example, a strawberry yoghurt must contain strawberries.
2. Cholesterol free
Many cholesterol free products are still high in fat, even saturated fat. Check the fat content on the nutrition panel. For example, cooking oils which claim to be 100% cholesterol free are still 100% fat.
3. Oven baked, not fried
If the product is brown and crunchy it has probably been sprayed with oil before baking and may contain as much fat as the fried variety. Check the fat content on the nutrition label to interpret this claim.
4. “Sugar free” or “no added sugar”
This usually means free of sucrose, but other types of sugar may be present which contain the same amount of energy (eg. fructose, malt extract, corn syrup).
5. “Lite” or “Light”
These terms may refer to being light in colour, flavour, texture, taste or fat content of the food. It does not necessarily mean a healthy or low fat choice. E.g. “lite” crisps have just as much fat as a standard crisp. The nutrition information panel will reveal whether the product really is low in fat by comparing the fat content per 100g on the back with similar products.
6. Reduced Fat
Reduced fat does not mean less fat compared to the product next to it, but less fat compared to the manufacturer’s normal product of that type. Check the nutrition information panel to determine the level of fat. E.g. reduced fat cheeses may still contain as much as 25% fat.
7. Cholesterol Free
These products may not contain cholesterol, but it doesn’t mean that they are low in saturated fats which can increase you blood cholesterol. Eg. Cholesterol free frozen potato chips are high in saturated fat because they are cooked in palm oil.
8. 93% Fat Free
This statement is not a trick, but you do have to think backwards to sort it out. 93% fat free still means it still contains 7% fat.
9. National Heart Foundation Tick
Developed and managed by the National Heart Foundation, the “Pick the Tick” campaign and its well known tick can be a guide for product selection. The campaign is voluntary and companies pay money to display the tick on their packaging. To be approved to carry the tick the products must meet strict criteria for the fat, salt, sugar and fibre contents. It is only found on some types of foods and doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best choice, but only a guide. Food such as bread, pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables are healthy choices although no tick appears on these products.
Surveys have shown that a high proportion of people use food labels to understand the foods they buy and that the people know read nutrition labels have better diets. The aim of this article is to help you “Read Between the Labels” and have a healthy lunchbox and eating plan for the whole family.
The information above will help you to choose healthier and tastier foods from the large number of available products by “Reading Between the Food Labels".
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