Supermarket shelves are full of foods and drinks, many of them making claims that sound healthy. Hannah Elliott explains how to use back-of-pack food labels to make healthy choices.
Food labelling can help us make an informed decision when shopping, but understanding the labels can feel difficult. While colour-coded front-of-pack labelling is a simple way to decode a nutrition label, not all manufacturers use this system.
Back-of-pack information can still give you the same information, and can also provide more detail about the product’s nutritional content and the ingredients inside.
Here are 10 easy tips to help you read back-of-packet labelling:
1. Read the ingredients list
Most pre-packaged foods have an ingredients list on the back of the packet. Everything that goes into your food will be listed in weight order from biggest to the smallest. So if the first few ingredients contain saturated fat - like cream, butter, fatty meat or cheese - or sugars, whether white or brown sugar, syrups or concentrated fruit juice, it’s worth bearing in mind that these make up the largest proportion of the food.
Ingredients that appear further down the list will be added in small quantities, but that doesn’t always make their impact insignificant. Vitamins and minerals added to some breakfast cereals, for example, can make a positive impact on our diets, while even small amounts of salt can make a significant contribution to our maximum of 6g a day.
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Thanks to Heart Matters Magazine