Nutrition labels are very useful to help you choose the kind of food that is best for you and your family’s diet. They give information on the main nutrients in food, and are especially important to check the levels of fat, sugar and salt in the products you are buying.
Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging.
These labels usually include information on energy in kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalories (kcal), usually referred to as calories. They also include information on protein, carbohydrate and fat. They may provide additional information on saturated fat, sugars, sodium and salt. All nutrition information is provided per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food.
Supermarkets and food manufacturers now highlight the energy, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content on the front of the packaging, alongside the reference intake for each of these.
You can use nutrition labels to help you choose a more balanced diet. For a balanced diet:
- cut down on fat (especially saturated fat), salt and added sugars
- base your meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, pasta and rice, choosing wholegrain where possible
- eat lots of fruit and vegetables – aim for at least five portions of a variety every day
- include some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, pulses and milk and dairy foods
How do I know if a food is high in fat, saturated fat, sugar or salt?
There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar, or not. These are:
High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g
High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g
High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
For example, if you are trying to cut down on saturated fat, limit your consumption of foods that have more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g.
If you would like further information, please consult the 'helpful links' section on this page.
Most pre-packaged foods with have nutritional labels that show information about calories, protein, carbohydrate and fat. Some labels show information about saturated fat, sugars and salt.
For colour-coded nutritional information on food packaging, red means high, amber means medium and green means low.
Choose foods that are colour-coded green on the nutritional label to make an healthier choice.
Some labels show how the food fits into your daily diet, for example by indicating what percentage of the recommended daily intake of sugars a serving will contain.
Some labels offer a clear visual cue for nutritional levels, using traffic light coding of red, amber and green colouring.
Ingredients on food packaging are listed in order of weight; main ingredients always come first. If the first few ingredients are high in fat such as cream or butter then the food is high-fat.
Remember that the reference intake (the approximate amount of particular nutrients and energy required for an healthy diet) is different for each person and you shouldnt see the figures as targets.
Food labels help you to compare foods and to check how much fat, salt and sugar you are eating.
Take the time to check the nutritional information on food packaging when you are in the supermarket. It can help you to make a more healthy choice.