Wednesday, 22 March 2017

HOW TO Read Nutrition Labels


Nutrition labels are THE most important thing to you when you are either in the grocery store or when you are planning your meals for the week.

You would be surprised the amount of  people who have no idea what they mean or how to read them or think they know how to read them but have their information wrong.

I'm here to help!



In one of my recent subjects in my Personal Training course, I learned exactly how to read a nutrition label. Even though I had already taught myself, taking this subject allowed me to take in the information in a way that I can easily pass it on to you guys.

I remember looking at labels when I was younger with my Mum and we would be checking the carbs and the fats and if they say 0, then GREAT we would get it. OH to have the knowledge I have now back then. The things I would do differently.


In Australia, as per legislative regulations, companies MUST have the following information on their nutrition labels in both 'per 100g' and 'per serving' whilst stating the serving size:
  • Energy
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Sugars
  • Sodium

Fibre and any other nutrients only need to be added to the list if a claim is made on the packaging or in the company advertising. For example 'our highest fibre bread' or 'added Vitamin B'.

The foods that you won't find a label on because it's not required (again, unless claims are made) are:
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Mineral Water
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Unpackaged foods
  • Foods packaged at point of sale (bakery foods)
The foods with nutrition labels will also have an ingredients list with all the ingredients that make up the product. When referring to the ingredients list, remember that they are listed in descending order of ingoing weight. So the first ingredient contributes the MOST to the product and the last ingredient contributes the LEAST. So if the first ingredient is sugar or something similar, ABORT MISSION (except if it's Nutella haha).



The 'per 100g' column will be handy for you when you're comparing products. You will be able to hold them next to each other and compare fats, sugars etc and make an informed decision about which one will be better for you. 

Above is a nutrition label from Kraft Crunchy Peanut Butter. It is important to note the SERVING SIZE. On some nutrition labels, the first information we see is for the serving size which is often quite a small amount of the product (example here, one tablespoon). This is where some people get caught out by reading this information and assuming it applies to the whole jar/ bottle/ can etc. This information applies to ONE TABLESPOON of the peanut butter. So if you're consuming any more than that, you need to adjust your daily nutrition accordingly. The information on the right applies to 100g of the peanut butter. As stated above, most, if not all products will have 'per 100g' nutritional information. If only they brought out a 'if you eat the whole tub' column! That would make life easy haha!

Let's break everything down. 

ENERGY 

=  kj which I HATE tracking, it just annoys me for some reason. I just convert everything in to calories. You can do this by dividing the kj number by 4.2. Every one will have a different calorie limit for the day so this number will mean something different to each person depending on your calorie goal for the day.

PROTEIN

Same as above. You should be aware of how much protein you're wanting to hit during the day. It is really hard to consume too much protein.

FATS

Ok so this one seems difficult but in a way it's not once you know what the different fats are!

Saturated fats 

Kind of bad for us. In excess, saturated fat in your diet can lead to high cholesterol. According to eatforhealth.gov.au Saturated fats are found in the following:
  • Meat – such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb and chicken (especially chicken skin), processed meats like salami
  • Full fat milk
  • Full fat cheese
  • Butter
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut
  • Coconut milk and cream
  • Cooking margarine
  • Fatty snack foods (such as potato chips, savoury crackers)
  • Deep fried and high fat take away foods (such as hot chips, pizza, hamburgers)
  • Cakes and high fat muffins
  • Pastries and pies (including quiche, tarts, sausage rolls, pasties, croissants)
  • Sweet and savoury biscuits

Trans fats 

According to the Dieticians Association of Australia, Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been processed and as a result, behave like saturated fats. Eating trans fats increases the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and decreases the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol in the body which is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is important to lower the amounts of trans fats you eat to help you stay healthy.
Trans fats are found in many packaged foods and also in butter and some margarines. Use food labels to compare foods and choose those with fewer trans fats.
It is great for health to replace saturated and trans fats with mono and polyunsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats 

Important part of a healthy diet. These fats help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels (among other health benefits) when they replace saturated fats in the diet.
There are two main types of unsaturated fats:

Polyunsaturated fats:

  • omega-3 fats which are found in fish, especially oily fish
  • omega-6 fats which are found in some oils such as safflower and soybean oil, along with some nuts, including brazil nuts.

Monounsaturated fats:

  • found in olive and canola oil, avocados and some nuts, such as cashews and almonds.
In regards to fats, I have a different opinion as to the Australian Dietary Guidelines  however, legally I cannot give any public advice that says otherwise. They do recommend choosing products with 10g or less per 100g which is definitely a good guideline. I myself have a current intake of 55g of fat per day and this is what I need to eat to have a healthy balance and regulate my hormones, I don't always choose things that are super low in fat as fat is just as important in your diet as carbohydrates and protein. Saturated fats you want to keep under 3g per 100g in any product.

SUGAR

Here is where it gets a little intricate.  Sugars can be natural and unrefined  OR refined (not natural and not good for us). Either way, these sugars will show up on this label under 'sugar'. The way you tell whether the sugar is naturally occurring or added is by looking at the ingredients list. Take these peanut butter labels for example. They both have sugar in them. However, the Organic, peanut only product below has only naturally occurring sugar from the nuts and no other sugar added however, the Crunchy peanut butter above has added sugar, as you will see in the ingredients list. If there is sugar in the ingredients list, that sugar is of a refined nature and has been added by the company and is NOT NATURAL.
Please also read the linked article from choice.com.au and note the following names for sugar companies can legally use that are also REFINED but they include some of the following:
Agave nectar/syrup, Barley malt, Beet sugar, Blackstrap molasses, Brown sugar, Cane sugar, Carob syrup, Caster sugar, Coconut sugar, Coffee sugar crystals, Confectioner's sugar, Corn syrup, Dextrose
Evaporated cane juice, Fructose, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Glucose, Golden syrup (the article lists many more).

Another thing I have learned from my research is that a company can claim "NO ADDED SUGAR" even if there is refined sugar in the ingredients. 
If you read my YOUFOODZ review and read how I complained about the protein balls having this claim but being made out of condensed milk, you will know what I am talking about. Legally, they can say this as the condensed milk is a 'whole ingredient' and they didn't add any extra sugar. Personally I believe that regulation is flawed and needs to be looked in to but it is one of the reasons we must be vigilant when reading nutrition labels to ensure we know what we are putting in to our bodies. 

I limit my sugar to around 60g per day.

SODIUM

Sodium (salt) is good for us but in excess is a risk factor for some serious health conditions. Nutrition Australia recommends we eat a maximum of 1600mg (4g) of salt/sodium per day. Read more here but apparently most Australian's are consuming more than DOUBLE that amount which is a little scary!

Another thing I want to point out here between the top photo and the one below is the ingredients. Notice how the one below is JUST peanuts and the one above has additives like oils, sugar and salt. You need to be looking out for these things. If there is a healthier alternative, get it. There's less fat, less carbs, less sugar and a significantly lower amount of sodium which is good to monitor.



TRICKS

One thing I quickly want to mention before I leave you is checking the NUMBER OF SERVINGS in the bottle/jar/ packet. There isn't always one even though you may think there is. Here is a perfect example. This is an iced coffee milk drink. Most people would check the serving size info and assume this is what they are drinking. HOWEVER, you will notice that there is actually 1.5 servings in this bottle so you are having a lot more than stated in the serving size. Please be aware of this, especially with drinks.


HELPFUL APPS

My Fitness Pal is always a good app for getting nutritional information however BUPA have an app called FoodSwitch which helps you get immediate, easy-to-understand nutritional information about packaged food products. Each product is rated for its amount of total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. The 'traffic light' ratings tell you if a product is low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) in this food components, based on widely accepted nutiritional standards. Healthier options can also be identified with the app. I am yet to have a play so can't go in to too much detail but it sounds pretty handy to have with  you in the super market as it can do the comparing for you!
Was this helpful? Do you have any other questions I may have forgotten to cover?

Keep smiling!

Tahana xo

8 comments :

  1. Thanks for that helpful breakdown of fat types, I always find that so confusing! I must admit I usually just look at the sugar content, but your post has made reading the whole label a lot easier!

    Di from Max The Unicorn

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a really helpful post! I've always struggled reading these

    ReplyDelete
  3. The food switch app sounds like a good app to have on my phone when I go shopping! I might explore it too!

    Great informative post!

    Ingrid
    http://www.fabulousandfunlife.blogpost.com.au

    ReplyDelete
  4. WOW! Great informational post! I definitely don't consider a lot of these when I consume food.

    Rochelle || www.simplesocialsister.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is incredible useful! Thank you for sharing this! It can be so overwhelming understanding nutritional labels.

    Isabella | www.digyhu.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. So many good tips Tahana, now I know how to work out calories and check my labels thank you xx

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great read something i need to learn x

    ReplyDelete
  8. With a Dairy Free /Soy Free child in the house we are used to always reading the ingredient labels but its great to know good fats/bad fats and sugar contents too!

    ReplyDelete

 
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