Top tips for understanding food labels
The supermarket has thousands of different products to choose from, so how do we know which are the best to buy?
Buying unpackaged food is best but we know pre-packaged foods make life easier. Follow these label reading tips to shop healthier.
1. Check the front of the pack for the Health Star Rating
The Health Star Rating on foods gives the food a star rating from ½ a star to 5 stars and is a quick and easy way to compare similar packaged foods. This means you can only compare like foods e.g. yoghurt with yoghurt or breakfast cereal with breakfast cereal – not compare yoghurt with breakfast cereal. When comparing similar foods – choose the product that has more stars.
Some foods don’t have a Health Star Rating so looking at the Nutrition Information Panel and ingredients list can be helpful.
2. Look at the ingredients list
The ingredients in a product are listed from the largest to the smallest amount. This means the first ingredient in the list is what the food contains the most of.
Choose products with fewer ingredients on the list as they are usually less processed and look for wholefood ingredients like oats, wholemeal flour, nuts, seeds and legumes like chickpeas.
Look out for other words on the ingredients list that flag ingredients high in saturated fat, added salt or added sugars. Check out our table below for other names that can be used on the label to describe fat, sugar or salt.
3. Look at the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP)
The NIP displays information on the energy (kilojoules), protein, total fat, saturated fat, total carbohydrate, sugars, sodium (salt), and sometimes other nutrients such as dietary fibre or calcium in the food per 100g or 100mL and per serve.
Use the per 100g column to compare similar products as serve sizes differ between brands.
Look for products with the lowest numbers for saturated fat, sugar and sodium and the biggest numbers for fibre and calcium.
For more ideas on healthy shopping check out our blog 10 things you should know before you go shopping