Nutrition panels explained
What do you look for when you’re doing the grocery shopping? Do you avoid fatty foods, buy gluten free products or simply look for what’s on special? How can you tell what type of bread is best and which yoghurt to choose?
Understanding the table of numbers on the side of the packet can make the difference in choosing healthy foods for you and your family. That table of numbers, also known as the Nutrition Information Panel, can at times look intimidating so here a are a few tips that will make it easier to understand.
Keep it simple
Focus on what is most important to you and your health. For example if you are trying to reduce your salt intake, look through the list of food components until you come to sodium. If you attempt to restrict components from every product you throw in the cart you’ll be there for hours taking the enjoyment out of your trip and the food itself.
Go by the percentage
When you identify what you’re after, whether it’s sugar, fat or sodium, look for the two numbers on the right. The first is the amount per serve, the second is the amount per 100 grams. Because the number of serves and the size of each serve vary with different products, it’s best to focus on the amount per 100 grams. This is equivalent to the percentage and will provide an overall picture of the product.
Know the healthy limits
Ok, so we’ve got the product, we know what we’re looking for, but how do we know what’s too much? Let’s look at fat and sugar. As a general guideline, ensure that neither fat nor sugar reads more than 10g per 100g, this will rule out a lot of those ‘diet’ yoghurts we thought were good for us.
Watch for marketing tricks
Be careful, don’t be fooled by clever marketing. Snacks that are advertised as ‘low fat’ or ‘light’ are often very high in sugar and can therefore be worse than the original or alternative option. Keep it simple and eat foods as close to their natural form as possible. There’s a reason why there are no nutrition panels on fresh fruit and vegetables.
We know you’re busy and sometimes the easiest option is to go for the cheapest product or the one you know, but getting to know your nutrition information is important in making informed dietary choices and ultimately can lead to better health for you and your family.
Sean RyanSean has been working in the fitness industry for over six years as a personal trainer and in various management positions. He has a Bachelor degree in food science and nutrition and is currently working at YMCA Epping. Sean’s favourite training style is resistance training and his top nutrition tip is to look at your portion sizes, control these and you’re well on your way to controlling your weight.
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Disclaimer: This article provides general advice only. Readers should seek independent professional advice from their general practitioner or dietician in relation to their own individual circumstances or condition before making any decisions based on the information in this article.