How to read food labels

  • Looking at the label can help you decide whether the product contains “a little” or “a lot” of fat, sugar, salt and fibre.
  • Use the “per 100g” column of the label to compare the make-up of similar foos and “per serving” for different food.
  • The table below guides you as to how much nutrient is in your food or drink oer 100g, so check against your actual serving size.
This is “a lot” per 100g                                             This is “a little”per 100g
20g fat or more                                                             3g fat or less
5g saturated fat or more                                          1g saturated fat or less
10g sugars or more                                                     2g sugars or less
1.25g salt or more                                                        0.25g salt or less
0.5g sodium or more                                                  0.1g sodium or less
3g fibre or more                                                            0.5g fibre or less
  • If the  quantities fall between the “a little” and “a lot” , this is a moderate amount.
  • The figures for sugar can’t tell you how much of the sugar comes from natural sugars (for example fruit sugar known as fructose) and how much comes from added sugars known as sucrose.
  • To see whether the product is high in added sugar look at the ingredients list, which always starts with the biggest ingredient first.
  • Remember you don’t need to avoid all food and drink that contain a lot of fat, sugar or salt – it’s the overall balance of what you eat that counts.

Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) are for average adults of normal healthy weight. Individuals needs vary depending on age, weight and activity levels. People trying to lose weight need approximately 500 less calories and 20g fat less per day than these Guideline daily Amounts.

Each day                                           Women                                  Men
Calories                                         2,000 kcals                         2,500 kcals
Fat                                                    70g                                          95g
Saturated fat                                    20g                                          30g
Sugar                                              50g                                          70g
Salt                                               less than 6g                          less than 6g
Fibre                                               16g                                           20g

Kcals are the amount of calories that the food or drink provides. if you take in more calories per day than your body needs, you will gain weight. To lose weight you need to take in fewer calories per day than you use.

Fat : There are 2 main types of fat, saturated and unsaturated (polyunsaturated and monunsaturated).  Reduce your total fat intake particularly saturated fat, which is the kind that is linked to heart disease. Choose unsaturated  fats or oils instead, especially monounsaturated fat, such as sunflower or vegetable oil, as these types of fat are better for your heart. Eating less fat helps you lose weight.

Added Sugars: include sugars such as sucrose, glucose, glucose syrup, invert syrrup, maltose and honey. The nearer these are to the top of the ingredients list, the more likely the food or drink is high in added sugars. Fructose is fruit sugar and is better for you.

Fibre: Known also as “roughage” – plant matter that your body can’t digest. This is very good for your digestive system and helps to prevent bowel cancer. There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble, both beneficial to your health. Soluble fibre, found in beans, pulses, oats, fruit and vegetables, helps to regulate your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre, found in wholegrain cereals and breads, beans, fruit and vegetables, helps to keep your digestive system healthy.

Salt: is the common name for sodium chloride. It’s the sodium in the salt that can be bad for your health. Too much salt in your diet can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

  • You may see a value for salt or sodium on food labels.
  • To convert sodium to salt multiply the figure by 2.5.
  • To convert salt to sodium divide the figure by 2.5.