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What Do Nutritional Food Labels Mean?


Reader Andrew Cowley asks:

“I am trying to take better care of myself and eat right, but when it comes to nutritional labels on foods I am at a loss. How do I make sense of these nutritional labels and what is good for me in terms of nutritional rating on these?”

Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer

This is an excellent question and is a great way to ensure that you pick out good quality foods.

Here are a few key points to help you read those labels:

  1. The less ingredients the better. This means that the food is less processed or tampered with and more natural.
  2. The longer the use by date, the worse this food is for you. Longer use by dates have lots of preservatives added this is why the foods last so long.
  3. The ingredient listed first is present in the largest amount and the ingredient listed last in the least amount.
  4. If an ingredient makes up less than 5% of the product is does not have to be listed. This is a concern as you could be eating anything.
  5. Low fat or light is rarely a good option, as most are jammed packed with additives to give the food a fuller flavour, so steer clear of these foods.
  6. Anything ending with OSE is a sugar. Eg Sucrose, Fructose etc.

And lastly, try not to eat anything in a packet. Then you won’t have to worry about reading any labels. For example carrots, broccoli, fish, and meats don’t have labels on them if you are buying them fresh. If you only eat these foods, I am extremely confident you will be achieving your goals and become a very healthy and happy person.

I spend most of my time in the supermarket in only two or three aisles. I buy my meats from an organic butcher and most of my fruits and vegetables from the Farmers Markets. This way I know where the food is coming from, how it has been harvested, and what is in it. I am pretty sure the quality of my food is much better than anything you can find in a packet.

I hope this helps you Andrew.

Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training. Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.

Sally Symonds – Weight Loss Coach and Author

This is an extract from my book ‘50+ Recipes to Lose 50+kgs…And Keep it Off! by Sally Symonds (Palmer-Higgs, 2011). I hope this helps you Andrew.

Despite all the potential for confusion, studies still show that people who make the effort to read food packaging – regardless of how well they understand it – are actually more successful at losing weight than those who don’t.

Remember that the best foods are those that don’t need a label at all – fresh fruit and vegetables from your greengrocer or supermarket, and fresh meat and fish from your butcher or fishmonger.

Sally’s Simple Guide to Reading Labels

What they say What this means What it could be hiding
Light / Lite In terms of fat – nothing!  It can be used with reference to the product’s texture, colour or taste. Fat, fat and more fat! As well as   sugar, sugar and more sugar! (And perhaps salt, salt and more salt as well!)
No Cholesterol /Cholesterol Free /Low Cholesterol Pretty much nothing if the product is made from plants (eg. margarine) as plants contain almost no cholesterol. Product still may be high in fat,   which can lead to weight gain and increase levels of LDL cholesterol. Product may also still be high in sugar and salt.
Baked Not Fried The product has been baked rather than fried. The product may still contain a high percentage of fat, sugar and salt.
High Energy This product is high in calories! Energy sounds great – everyone wants energy!  Except the body turns unused energy into fat.  Avoid high in energy if you are trying to lose weight!
Pure /Natural Nothing! Anything (and everything!)
Fresh The product hasn’t been frozen or canned. The product may have been   refrigerated for several months.
Reduced Fat This product must contain at least 25% less fat than the regular version. This product may still be high in   sugar and salt and potentially still quite high in fat if the regular version of the product is very high in fat to begin with.
X% Fat Free This clever wording shifts your focus to the fat that isn’t in the product and away from the fat that is still in there. For example, 80% fat free is still 20% fat overall. Potentially high levels of fat   depending on the serving size – eg if the serving size is 300g and the product is 96% fat free then each serve still contains 12g of fat. The product can also be high in sugar and salt.
Low Fat The product must contain less than 3% fat is it is a solid food (1.5% if it is a liquid food). The product may be high in sugar and   salt and still relatively high in fat as well – eg if the serving size is 300g then each serve may still contain nearly 9g of fat in total.
Fat Free The product must contain less than 0.15% fat. The product may still be high in   sugar and salt.
Reduced Sugar Product must contain 25% less sugar than the regular version. The product may still be high in fat and salt and potentially still quite high in sugar if the regular version of the product was very high in sugar to begin with.
Low Sugar Product must not contain more than 5g   total sugars per 100g. The product may still be high in fat   and salt and potentially still quite high in sugar – eg if the serving size is 300 g you would still be consuming approximately 15g of sugar when you eat it.
No Added Sugars Product must not contain any added sugars. The product may still be high in fat   and salt and potentially still high in sugar as the product can still contain natural sugars.
Reduced Salt / Reduced Sodium Product must contain 25% per cent less salt than the regular version. The product may still be high in fat   and sugar and potentially still quite high in salt if the regular version of the product was very high in salt to begin with.
Low Salt / Low Sodium Product must contain 120mg or less of sodium per 100g. The product may still be high in fat   and sugar and potentially still quite high in salt – eg if the serving size is 300g you could still be consuming approximately 360mg of salt when you eat it.

Sally Symonds holds a certificate III and IV in fitness, is a certified wellness coach, and a NLP practitioner. She holds a Masters and Bachelors degree in Arts, and an Associate and Licentiate in Speech and Drama. Having lost over 50 percent of her body weight, Sally Symonds is the author of 50 steps to lose 50kg… And Keep It Off and 50+ Recipes to Lose 50+kg… And Keep It Off and more than 20 other ebooks. Sally offers phone and online weight loss coaching, as well as a variety of other healthy living services and products.

Your Questions Answered

Do You Want to Read More Health and Fitness Questions and Answers? Then Click Here 🙂

Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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  10. Labels should be read carefully so you get good nutritional value from all of your foods. This will help you to lose weight.

  11. What occurs after you workout, do physical exercise and some instruction with weights? What occurs is you build muscle mass by breaking it down. See, your muscle mass tears and you enter a recovery period after your workout. This muscle mass building process is why one of the most important meals of the day is actually in fact your post-workout meal. This meal should be protein rich to help repair and build stronger muscles.

  12. Always read labels. Food is important if you want to lose weight and gain excellent abs. The last physical exercise you need to add for your work out are ab workouts. Aim to work your ab muscles 3 occasions per week. There are a great deal of different ab exercises you can do so attempt to discover 3 or so that you appreciate performing and mix it up.

  13. Read those labels man, and read them well. They’ll get you to the other side faster than you know. Remember, the first week is okay when dieting, but it gets tougher. Be tough on yourself and you will get over this.

  14. Those labels are important if you know what to look for. You need low sugar and carbs, less than 5 per 100 grams is good. You need high protein, as much as possible, if you want to build good, strong abs. If you are looking to lose weight you can try natural supplements such as acai berry pills. The Acai berry pills are also a good antioxidant, they boost the immune system, improve metabolism, restore and sustain a higher energy level, increase resistance to fatigue, stress and tension. You can buy acai berry pills online, but make sure you shop carefully, not all products are the same.

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