Are you reading your food right?


Brooke Couper

Different food labels and the information presented

Brooke Couper, Writer

Have you ever wondered what all the information on the back of packets or side of cans means? Have you read through it and thought you have no idea what is being stated?

There’s a reason for it being there. Almost two out of three Australian adults were overweight or obese in 2014-15. Obesity and excess weight can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancers and type 2 diabetes.

In a bit to help people make healthier choices by law here in Australia, manufactured foods are required to carry labels containing the nutritional and safety information. This information allows you to ensure you’re purchasing the right foods to help you live a healthier lifestyle.

In order to read a nutritional panel, we need to understand what is stated in them and how they work. By educating ourselves we will be able to understand what we’re eating and how much we can consume.

The nutrition panel has an ingredients list which is listed in decreasing order by weight. This means the first ingredient is the major ingredient, making the last ingredient the smallest.

According to Healthy Weight Week: “If sugars, salt or fat are one of the first three ingredients on the list, the product may not be the healthiest choice.

“Be careful because there are some different names for sugar, salt and fat that you need to look out for.”

Some labels will state what percentage of the recommended daily intake is found in one serve of the product, which helps determine if the food works into a balanced diet.

Breaking down the nutritional panel, you need to be aware of the following to ensure you know what you’re eating and if it’s right for your lifestyle.

Energy is measured in kilojoules; in order to lose weight, we need to consume fewer kilojoules than we use.

Health Direct states: “You should limit your intake of foods that have more than 600kJ per serve.”

Fat is higher in kilojoules than other nutrients and that should limit the total amount of consumption.

Saturated fats are also listed in the nutrition panel. These different types of fats tend to be linked with high cholesterol and lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

Carbohydrates (carbs) are found in all breads, sugar, fruit and vegetables, and are required for energy.

Fibre foods, like Weet-Bix or bread, help us feel full and aid in digestion.

Sodium is the salt amount contained in the product. Too much salt leads to high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease and more.

Now that we have an understanding of what is involved in the food packaging and how to calculate what is right for a balanced diet, we can refer to the health star rating.

Packaged foods are rated from half a star to five stars. If you’re in a rush it lets you know how healthy the product is quickly. The more stars it has, the better it is for you.

It’s time to start reading about what we’re consuming and helping others understand what they’re eating and drinking.