Web Content Viewer (JSR 286) - Healthy Weight

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A shopper checking the nutrition label of a food item
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It’s smart to check the labels on any packaged food you buy. These labels can tell you a lot about what ingredients are in the food you are eating.

Often, though, the information on food labels is difficult to understand. Help is available to assist with understanding food labels. If you take the time to learn about food labels, it will make choosing healthier packaged foods much simpler.

Food labels contain a variety of information, including the following:

  • Nutrition information panel. This provides information on the amount of energy, protein, fat (total and saturated), carbohydrates (total and sugar) and sodium (an indication of the amount of salt) the food contains. This information will help you to make informed decisions about what food to buy. By using the 'per 100g' column you can compare two foods and choose the healthier option. Choose foods that are low in fat (especially saturated fat), sugar and sodium.
  • Serve size. When checking information about serving size, remember that what the food company considers a 'serving size' may be different from what you usually eat.
  • Ingredient list. All of the ingredients contained in a package of food are listed in order of their weight in the product. For example, you can use this list to see how much sugar a product contains relative to other ingredients. Avoid foods in which sugar is one of the first few ingredients on the list.
  • Percentage labelling. This tells you how much of each of the main ingredients is in the product. For example, percentage labelling will tell you what percentage of a tub of strawberry yoghurt is made up of strawberries.
  • Food additives. Food additives, including colours, flavours and preservatives, are included in the ingredient list in the form of numbers. If you are sensitive to a particular additive and know its identifying number, this will help you to avoid foods containing this additive. Detailed information about food additives is available on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website. 
  • Country of origin. In Australia, the label of any packaged food must state the country in which the food was made or produced.
  • Directions for use and storage. These include specific instructions such as 'refrigerate after use'. When followed, these instructions help to maintain the safety and quality of the food.
  • Information for allergy sufferers. Products containing the major allergens – peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews and walnuts), shellfish, milk, eggs, sesame, soybeans and gluten – are labelled as 'may contain…'. If you have an allergy to any of these foods or food components, it is strongly recommended that you avoid all foods containing these ingredients.
  • Date marking. Do not buy or consume foods after their 'use-by' date. Note, however, that food is still considered safe for consumption after its 'best before' date.

The information included on food labels is regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

 

 

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