Label Reading

There is a lot of information on food labels and at times it can be difficult to determine if a product is healthy or not.

There are 3 types of information on a food label that you can use to help you make a healthy choice:

  • Ingredients list
  • Nutrient claims or nutrition messages
  • Nutrition information panel.

Fresh fruit and vegetables do not have labels but should be included regularly in your diet on a daily basis.

Ingredients List

Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. The first ingredient on the list is present in the largest amount, and the last is present in the smallest amount. You will find that things like sugar, fat and salt often have different names on an ingredient list. The table below gives some of their alternative names:

Fat Oil, shortening, tallow, lard, dripping, cream, copha, milk solids, monoglycerides, diglycerides,
butter, margarine.
SaltSodium, rock salt, vegetable salt, MSG, yeast extract, stock cube, baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, booster.
SugarSucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, lactose, malt extract, molasses, syrup,
monosacharides, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, modified carbohydrate.

Nutrient Claims

ClaimWhat it means?
Low joule / dietProduct is usually low in fat or sugar and often
artificially sweetened
No added sugarNo sugar has been added to the product – but may
contain other sugars such as lactose (in milk
products, fructose in fruit).
Light / liteCan mean reduced in fat, salt or sugar – but can also mean “light” in colour. You will need to check what
the “light” is referring to.
Reduced fatThe total fat content of the product has been reduced by 25% compared to the original/regular product. Reduced fat does not necessarily mean low fat.
Low fatHas no more than 3g fat per 100g, for solid food. Or1.5g fat per 100g for liquid.
Fat freeTotal fat of less than 0.15g per 100g of food.
Polyunsaturated or monounsaturatedThese are the preferred fats if looking to avoid
increases in cholesterol levels. They are still fat and
contain the same amount of energy as saturated fats – if you are watching your weight you will need to
ensure that your intake of these is kept low.
Cholesterol freeMeans there is no cholesterol – however cholesterol only occurs in animal products – so plant products
labelled cholesterol free is misleading. Low
cholesterol does not always mean low fat.
Natural, fresh or realThere is no standard meaning for these terms – nice
for advertising. Wise to check nutrition information
panel for content of sugar, fat and salt.
No added saltCheck the nutrition information panel – the food may still contain some salt naturally.
Salt reducedThe salt content has been reduced by 25% compared to the original/regular product. Reduced salt does
not necessarily mean low salt.
Low sodium or salt reducedContains less than 120mg sodium per 100g.
High fibreHas more than 3g of dietary fibre per serving. If
product contains 6g of fibre per serving it can be
labelled “very high in fibre”.
Gluten freeContains no detectable gluten – for people with
Coeliac Disease.
Low GI (Glycaemic Index)If the product has the low GI symbol it indicates that the Glycaemic Index of the product as been
measured by an approved facility. Must be low GI
and consistent with dietary guidelines for Australians – low in saturated fat, low /moderate in sodium and where appropriate a source of dietary fibre.

Nutrition Information Panel