Are you being tricked by food labels?
Reading labels is something I encourage lots of people to do on a daily (or weekly) basis. Recently I have noticed that some labels can be tricky or even deceiving. Take for example a packet of Sesame snaps. These delicious treats come in a bag that contains three individually wrapped portions. When I turned the packet over to look at the nutrition panel I found a trick. A serve of the sesame snaps was only 1 snap (when the individual packet included 4). Now this is completely legal, however, the issue that I have with this is if you bought a small single package chances are you bought it to eat all of the contents. If you missed that small piece of information, you could easily think that these are a low energy, low sugar snack. Which is not the case. Therefore, it's important to learn how to read food labels to make the best decisions.
Another great example that I saw recently was on a packet of pasta. This pasta claimed that you would get 200% of the recommended intake of wholegrains per serve. When I checked the serving size it was a whopping 125g of dry pasta! Now I don't know about you but I would struggle to get through a quarter of a packet of pasta. It also becomes confusing with these types of foods when a recommended serve of pasta is a mere 1/2 a cup (or 75g cooked). This is why I definitely wouldn't recommend using the claims on the front of packages to gauge the healthiness of a food.
My Tips for Reading Labels
For foods that are packaged into single portions, it is important that you check the nutrition label to see what the manufacturer determines a serve to be. Then you can make an informed decision if the food will fit with your needs.
The ingredients are listed in order of amount. Therefore, the first ingredient makes up the largest portion of the food. If you are time poor, this is a good tool as a quick guide for the healthiness of the food. If sugar, fat or salt (in one of their many names) are found in the first three ingredients, the food probably isn't a healthy option. If there are only a few ingredients in the list, it is worthwhile checking the nutrition label to see what proportion they contribute.
This column is best used for comparing similar products. This gives you a direct comparison of foods to allow you choose the healthier option based on your nutritional needs.
This column is great to use for foods that are packaged into single portions. As I mentioned before, it is important to check what that serve is first!
Download my free handy label guide to keep with you when shopping.