A Simple Guide to Reading Nutrition Information Labels at the Supermarket
Food labels can be a bit daunting and confusing at the supermarket. Especially when the food packaging already contains so many other messages and information with numerous health claims and benefits. These quick and simple tips will make filtering food labels a whole lot easier.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to stay away from too many packaged snack foods as they are usually high in added sugar, poor quality fats, salt and preservatives. You want to be filling yourself up with whole foods like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains that have been minimally processed.
But, when it comes to some packaged foods like cereal, bread and other snacks like muesli bars, they can range extremely low in nutritional value to extremely high.
Your guide to the Nutrition Information Panel
The nutrition information panel is the simplest and fastest way to make healthy food choices. If you know what to look for, with a quick glance you will easily be able to decide if a food is worthy of putting inside your body!
Here is a simple guide to nutrition information panels:
The four main things you need to look out for are:
Some packaged foods (like chips) can be cooked in poor quality fats. If the saturated fat content is no more than 3g per 100g then you know that not too much of a processed fat has been added. In general, try to choose foods with less than 10g total fat per 100g.
You don’t need to avoid sugar completely, but avoiding lots of added sugars is recommended. If the sugar content is less than 15g per 100g then you know that not too much sugar has been added to your food.
Most of our salt consumption comes from packaged foods, not what we add at the dinner table. Salt is a sneaky added ingredient that can make foods taste yummy, but is not good for our health. Keeping under 400mg per 100g of sodium will ensure you aren’t consuming too much salt.
Fibre is the part of plants and grains that contains all the nutrients which have many health benefits for our guts, body and mind. Not all labels show fibre, which is an instant indication of the nutritional value of packaged foods like breads and cereals. When grains get processed, like into white bread, the fibre is stripped away. So when you’re looking at a box of cereal and you can’t see any mention of fibre – a red flag should go up!
It’s also a good idea to have a quick glance at the ingredients list. Here are our top two simple tips:
Ingredients are listed in order of weight
If sugar or fat is the first ingredient on the list, then you know that it’s most likely not going to be very nutritious.
Short and Simple Ingredient lists are the best
If you see lots words that you don’t know (which probably look like chemical science experiments), it generally means they have lots of processed additives in them. Try to choose labels that don’t have too many complicated words. Keep it simple.
What foods should I be reading the Nutrition information on?
- Muesli bars
- Packaged school snacks
- Pre-made sauces
Check out this week’s recipe which is full of fresh wholesome and high fibre ingredients!
Zucchini Burrito Boats
Serves: 4 Time: 40mins Cost: $7.50 approx. ($1.87/serve)
- 4 large zucchinis (if you can only find small zucchinis you may want to grab a couple extra)
- 1 red onion
- 1 red capsicum
- 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 can of black beans (or kidney beans)
- 1 cup of pre-cooked rice
- 1 cup of grated low fat cheese
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh coriander to serve (optional)
- pre-heat oven to 190oc (fan-forced).
- slice zucchinis down the middle lengthwise.
- use a metal spoon to scoop out the centre.
- place on a lined baking tray and put aside.
- heat a drizzle of olive oil on a medium heat in a pan.
- add capsicum and onion, cook for 2 mins.
- add chilli powder, cumin and garlic powder, cook for 1 min.
- add tomatoes, corn, beans and rice, cook for 5 mins.
- Spoon cooked mixture evenly into zucchini boats and sprinkle over cheese.
- cover the tray in aluminium foil and bake for 15 mins.
- take foil off, and bake for another 5 mins so cheese goldens.
Serve with fresh coriander and a side salad if desired.
You may have left over mixture depending on how big your zucchinis are. If this is the case they can be used as delicious leftovers the next day.