When it comes to food labels, Australia is strict in enforcing that each food packet should have a nutritional label.
This means that each food packet should contain the breakdown of salt, sugar, calories, saturated fat, and the like.
It should also indicate possible allergic reactions to some of its ingredients. However, how should you approach the nutritional information on food labels? Here’s a guide.
Australian Guide to Healthy Eating
Before trying to understand the nutritional label, it’s important that you are aware of the country’s guide to healthy eating.
The National Health and Medical Research Council has published a guide that shows five food groups and how much of them you should consume in a day.
In the diagram, whole grain and high-fiber foods should make up 30% of your diet. The same portion should also be given to vegetables and legumes.
20% of your diet should be lean meats and poultry, eggs, tofu, and nuts. Fruits should make up 10% and the same should also apply for dairy.
Understanding Food Labels
Now that you know how much of each food group you should eat, it’s time to look at the nutritional information.
1. Serving Size
Use the 100g food column if you want to compare several similar food products so you can have a standard picture of how much nutrients are there in a 100-g basis.
If you won’t be comparing, look at the “per serve” column to know how much of each nutrient you will consume. This assumes that you will follow the serving size indicated.
The second part to look at is the energy row. A discretionary food has around 600kJ per serving.
3. Total Fat and Saturated Fat
Choose foods that have less than 10 grams of total fat for every 100 grams of its serving. If it’s dairy products like milk and ice cream, it should be less than 2 grams per 100 grams.
If it’s cheese, look for less than 15 grams per 100 grams. On the other hand, less than 3 grams of saturated fat is considered healthy.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to eliminate sugar in your diet. In fact, it is nearly impossible to do so.
Instead, look at foods that have less than 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams of its serving. Other names of sugar are dextrose, fructose, glucose, honey, brown sugar, etc.
Fibre is not present in all foods, but if you are buying whole grains, make sure that it has more than 3 grams per serving.
You also have to look at the salt content. In general, food with less than 120 milligrams of salt for every 100 grams is considered healthy. But if it goes beyond 400 milligrams, then you should avoid the food altogether.
Lastly, consult the ingredients portion which is often found below the nutritional information. If it’s not there, you can find it around the food packet. This will help you identify if there are certain ingredients you are allergic to.