The main part of the label that you need to focus on is the nutritional information panel, and also the ingredients list. There’s a lot of other information on labels, such as information about the company, and where the product was manufactured. Although important, the focus here is on the nutritional content of the food.
Nutritional Information Panel
The food label may have a per serve column, and a per 100gm column. If you are comparing products for sugar, salt or fat content, always compare using the 100gm column. This way the comparison is accurate, because often serving sizes are different for different brands of the same product.
When buying packaged foods be aware that although they may look like a single serve, if you read the nutritional panel they often contain 2 or 3 servings per package. If this is the case, always split the packet up into the number of serving sizes, and consume only 1 serve.
Fat: look for products that have less then 5gm fat per 100gm, to ensure you keep your saturated fat intake to a minimum. This is important for a healthy cardiovascular system, and to reduce inflammation.
Sugar: Look for products with less than 10gm sugar per 100gm. Less than 5gm is better! However if the product is fruit based, you can allow up to 20gm sugar due to the natural fruit sugars. Keep these products to a minimum though. When we consume a lot of sugar and don’t burn it off, it naturally turns to fat and gets stored in our cells!
Salt/Sodium: Look for products with less than 150mg sodium per 100gm. The lower the better when it comes to salt, as a lot of prepackaged foods have a VERY high salt content, which contributes to hypertension, fluid retention and weight gain.
Fibre: Between 3 to 6gm fibre per serve is considered a high fibre product. Go for the highest fibre product, as this will help your digestive system process more efficiently, whilst also stopping your blood sugar levels spiking.
A good tip to remember these values is to pop them in your phone, or on a card that you can put in your wallet. This will help when you're out shopping and can't remember.
The first thing to look for is English! What I mean by this is if you can’t understand the words on the label, chances are they aren’t good for you. Scientific names on the label usually mean there is something to hide. Also look for foods with as few ingredients as possible. A tomato based sauce only needs 5 to 10 ingredients, such as tomato, onion, celery salt, garlic and rosemary. Not 20 ingredients that include scientific chemicals to enhance the flavour, colour or preserve the product.
The ingredients in the product are listed on the label in order from largest to smallest quantity used. If you see salt, fat or sugar in the top 3 ingredients, that means they are the main ingredients. If you are trying to lose or maintain weight, be wary of this. Lots of low fat products have sugar as one of their main ingredients! Sugar is very inflammatory, and will help you gain weight.
Words that mean fat, sugar and salt
FAT SUGAR SALT
Vegetable oil/fat Sucrose Sodium
Animal Fat/oils Maltose Na
Shortening Lactose Monosodium Glutamate
Copha Dextrose MSG
Lard Fructose Sodium Bicarbonate
Palm oil Mannitol Sodium ascorbate
Coconut oil Sorbitol Sodium Lactate
Butter Xylitol Yeast Extracts
Milk Solids Glucose Syrup Baking Soda
Monoglycerides Corn syrup Vegetable salt
If there are food colourings, unnatural flavourings and preservatives, steer clear of buying the product. Nature didn’t intend for us to eat chemicals in replace of food, so we need to try our best to avoid them by going for natural wholefood options.
I hope this helps to clarify a little of the confusion around reading food labels!
I'm off for puppy cuddles and a relaxing night.
Love and Light
Ally Chick :) xoxo