Food Labels: Top tips before you put that product in your trolley

Food labels

When was the last time you checked the nutritional label on your food product? Really checked it? Was it too time consuming? Were they just words and numbers that didn’t really mean anything? Do we even really need all the information that’s provided? Let’s take a quick look at what we REALLY need to look out for.

The Ingredient List


Tip #1 Ingredient list hierarchy

The important thing to take away from the ingredient list is that they are listed by weight. This means that the first ingredient listed is what makes up most of the product. So you can easily see if the product is high in a particular ingredient by looking the first few ingredients on the list.

The Nutrition Label

Tip #2 Comparing foods

When comparing different food products, you should look at the ‘per 100g’ column. This is because often the ‘per serving’ column isn’t really how much we would eat. Food companies can set the serving size to whatever they want and it’s generally less than what we would eat. Looking at the ‘per 100g’ column also makes it easier to compare to other products with a different serving size.

Tip #3 Key components of the nutrition panel

The main components we want to look at on the nutrition panel are:

  Best Choices Okay Choices
  Aim for less than:
Total fat 3 g 10 g
Saturated fat 1.5 g 5 g
Sugar 5 g 15 g
Sodium 120 mg 400 mg
  Aim for more than:
Dietary fibre 3 g

Aim for the best choices wherever possible and consider all the key components. If you concentrate on one component, for example fat, then you may look past the fact that the food product is extremely high in sugar. If you look at the bigger picture, it’ll help you to determine whether the product is a good choice or not.

A great tool is available from the Live Lighter Campaign that is handy to keep in your pocket and refer  to when you’re at the shops.


Click here to see the PDF version.

Tip #4 Using The Daily Intake Guide (%DI)

The %DI is a set of reference values for acceptable intakes of energy and different nutrients such as protein, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, fibre and sodium.

However, be wary! The %DI is based on an AVERAGE adult’s daily requirement which is 8700 kJ. Your actual needs are likely to be higher or lower depending on your gender, weight, age, if you are pregnant, how much exercise you do and if you have any other medical conditions. Remember to discuss what your individual requirements are with your dietitian.

What now?

Hopefully those tricky food labels have a bit more meaning. Check your food labels at home and you may be surprised with what’s in the package. Hopefully what you are already buying gets a thumbs up.


  • Don’t let the look of the packaging determine your decision.
  • Check the top 3 or 4 ingredients listed
  • Check the nutrition label

What’s coming up next? Kristina will be giving you the lowdown on breakfast cereals. Make sure you check it out!

Questions? E-mail us at



One thought on “Food Labels: Top tips before you put that product in your trolley

  1. Pingback: The Health Star Rating is Rolling In | The Food Edition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s