How do I use a food label to compare products?

Packaged food available for retail sale must be labelled with a nutrition panel according to the FSANZ guidelines. This is great information, but how do we use it?

Not everyone reads food labels, we are often in a hurry or just buying the same brand we normally do. The best way to read food labels and compare products is by using the column that lists the quantity of the nutrient per 100 grams (g).

The per serve amount often varies from product to product, so by using the 100g column you know you are comparing the same amounts of the product.

labelFor those of us trying to manage our sugar intake, for example, we would compare two different packaged breakfast cereals side by side to see how much sugar is in them. Special K breakfast cereal contains 17.9g of sugar per 100g.

By comparison, 100g of rolled oats contains 1g of sugar per 100g. As you can see the rolled oats have a lot less sugar!

oats label

Ideally we are looking for around 5g or less sugar per 100g. So the better option here would be to have rolled oats with some milk and ½ a cup of berries which would give you a nutritionally balanced meal with a lot less sugar.

You can also use the 100g column on the nutrient label to compare the amount of kilo-joules, fats, carbohydrate, protein, sodium and cholesterol which will help you balance your diet. There are a few exceptions that don’t require a label (e.g. coffee, herbs and spices) but you should be able to find one on most foods especially if they make health claims on the packet.

Now would be a good time to review your pantry. Try to make an effort to read labels of every product as you buy it. The ingredients and recipe may change, so I check my favourites regularly. Once you get in the swing of it, it becomes second nature.

Have a look at some of your favourite foods now. How do they hold up?

You don’t need to read the label if you make it yourself! Grab free recipe inspiration with my healthy whole-foods ebook.

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