Being able to read nutrition labels and understand what nutrients are found in each food group, can be extremely beneficial in helping you make healthier choices. Because when the numbers on the pack don’t mean anything to you of course it’s going to be extremely difficult to understand and know what the best choices are for you and your health or performance goals!
So, what information does the label provide?
The front of the packaging will usually provide a colour coded less detailed snapshot of what is contained in the food. Whereas, along with the ingredients, the back of the packaging will be much more detailed providing you with information on both macronutrients and micronutrients!
The nutrition information will usually be broken down either per serving (this can vary greatly depending on the product) or per 100g. Using per 100g can be much easier to break down than portion sizes due to the variation of products, and everyone’s portion size may be different.
How do I know what to choose?
So, as mentioned, on the front of the packaging there is usually a colour-coded chart of nutrients. Which can certainly save you time looking at information on the back. So, it is quite straightforward for the consumer to determine how much of each nutrient is contained in the food i.e. Green = low, Orange = medium, Red = high.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that when you see red on a label you must avoid it at all costs. But if for example you have a diet high in saturated fats and want to reduce this then looking for foods that have a lower content may be the best option for you!
What are the ranges?
The above are usually nutrients that we consume too much of in our diet, naturally enough foods such as fruit and veg don’t have nutritional values on them but are all low in the above. So again, it comes back to being mindful and taking time to look at what is in what essentially. And opposite to that when we are choosing food groups, foods high in fibre (which we want to include more of), look out for so >6g/100g as this would be a food considered high fibre.
As well as knowing your colours, look at the calorie content of the food and compare it to other products. This can help you make the best choice for you. For example, a chicken Kyiv will have a higher fat content than a regular chicken breast and therefore greater calories – you might want to consider which is the healthier option for you! So, these are small changes you can look out for to help you determine what foods will allow you to meet your goals! The average woman requires 2000kcal and the average man will require 2500cals, so this could be a great place to start. Again, this will vary depending on each individual!
- Aim to eat greater amounts of foods with more green labels and fewer reds. This traffic light system may help you make healthier choices
- Using the info per 100g on labels will make it easier to compare nutrition on other labels
- Be sure to check how many servings the information is referring to
- Take time during your shopping to read the labels i.e. choose a day you’re not in a rush. And over time it will become much easier for you!