Reading Food Labels
Reading food labels allows you to compare similar food items to choose foods which are healthy and good value. Food labels tell us exactly what we are paying for, so it really does pay to take the time to read them.
In Australia all packaged and manufactured foods must have a food label and nutrition information panel. By law, they must be accurate and not contain misleading information.
What's on a food label?
Nutrition information panels provide information about the energy (kilojoules), protein, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars and salt (sodium). The information is listed per serve, and per 100g. Use the per 100g column to compare products, as serve sizes are different between brands.
When choosing breakfast cereals, be sure to compare the amount of fibre per serve, and choose the highest value possible.
A breakfast cereal should provide no less than 3g of fibre per serve. Adults should eat 30-40g of fibre per day, and breakfast is a great opportunity to include high fibre foods. Children need 'their age plus 5' grams per day. For example, a three year old child needs 8g (3 + 5 = 8) of fibre per day.
Fat, sugar and salt are not always called these names on the ingredient list. See the alternative food names list to find out what you're really eating.
Remember, some of the healthiest foods are not labelled - fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and fish.
What you should look for
Fruit and Vegetables
- All fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy choices.
- When buying canned fruit and vegetables, choose ‘no added salt’ and ‘no added sugar’ varieties.
Print the wallet card sheet double sided or glue the two pages back-to-back. Cut out the cards and share with your family and friends. Take this information shopping with you. It will help you find healthy options.
Best Before and Use By
A food that is past the best before date is still safe to eat, but may have lost some nutritional value or taste/colour quality. It is usually pantry items and canned goods that carry this date.
A food that is past the use by date is unsafe to eat and should be thrown away. Foods such as meat and milk products carry this date.
Choose products with the longest use-by date so that you have time to use and it it does not end up being thrown out and wasted.