On food labels in Australia and New Zealand, nutrition figures are presented in a standard table format called the Nutrition Information Panel or NIP. This shows quantities per serve and per 100g it is an invaluable tool to assess how nutritious the food may be. However understanding exactly what it means can be tricky. The Reading Food Labels poster developed by FSANZ clearly explains all the elements in a simple way. Also, you may have heard about the new Country of origin labelling – Catherine Saxelby, one of Australias leading nutrition experts, breaks this down in her blog.
The Eat for Health website has useful information to help you navigate your way around a label. You can also download a handy card to be printed and cut out for your wallet. Use it as an easy reference guide when shopping.
Basic label reading tips :
- Ingredients are listed in order of weight so if sugar is listed first or second this is probably not a healthy choice
- Compare products using the 100g column of the nutrition information panel rather than ‘per serve’ as each product serve size may vary
- When comparing similar products choose those higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugar
- Terms such as ‘Lite’, ‘Light’, ‘Sugar free’ and ‘no added sugar’ can sometimes be deceiving. To see if this product is a healthier choice compare it to another similar product.
And the biggest tip of all… Some of the healthiest products are those that have no labels such as fresh fruits and vegetables.