Food labels are a source of very useful information. Currently, by law, all manufactured food must have a food label on it. This information can help you find out if the food is healthy or not. You will notice that food labels will have a nutrition information panel and an ingredients list. Follow these easy steps to understand your food labels:
Nutrition Information Panel
Servings per package: 11
Serving size: 23.2g (4 slices)
|Hover over links for a description||Per serving||Per 100g|
Ingredients are listed in decreasing order by weight. In other words, the first ingredient is the major ingredient and the last ingredient would be much smaller. So if sugars, salt or fat are one of the first three ingredients on the list, the product may not be a healthy choice. But be careful because there are some different names for sugar, salt and fat that you need to look out for:
Be a supermarket sleuth and know what the nutrient claims mean:
Glycaemic Index (GI) is a ranking given to foods to describe how quickly the carbohydrate they contain is digested and absorbed into the blood. Carbohydrate is an important energy source for the body and carbohydrate containing foods are an important part of a healthy diet.
Foods that are quickly digested and absorbed have a high GI whilst those which are slowly digested and absorbed have a low GI. Foods with a high GI lead to simple sugar, or glucose being absorbed into the blood quickly while those with a low GI have the opposite effect.
Low GI foods include:
High GI foods include:
Eating low GI foods may:
Recent studies also show that eating low GI foods may help to prevent some diseases.
You may have noticed labels on foods in supermarkets and food outlets called Percent Daily Intake or %DI. This shows you the percentage of energy and nutrients in a serve of the product. Because it is on the front of food packaging it’s easy to see, and can be a useful guide for choosing foods to best meet your nutrient needs.
What is the Daily Intake Guide?
The Daily Intake Guide or %DI is a set of reference values for an acceptable intake of a set of nutrients including:
%DI is based on the recommended amounts of energy and nutrients needed for an average adult diet to meet their nutritional needs. The percentages are calculated based on the below figures:
|Nutrient||Reference Value used in %DI|
|Saturated fatty acids||24 g|
|Dietary fibre||30 g|
As these figures are based on an average adult diet, you may need more or less than the above figures and this will vary based on your age, height, weight, sex and how much activity or exercise you do.
You can also calculate your %DI for energy at the My Daily Intake Website.
How do I use the Daily Intake Guide?
You can use %DI labels to find out what is in a serve and the percentage that the serve will contribute to your daily intake. You can also use the %DI to compare similar products so that you can choose the product that more closely matches the nutrients that you need. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you would choose the product with the lowest percent for energy, lowest saturated fat and highest fibre.
For individualised advice on using the %DI or calculating the %DI to meet your nutritional needs look no further than an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Serve or portion sizes in Australia have been on the rise for many years, just think of how the size of a ‘cookie’ or muffin has changed. While this may seem like value for money, the news isn’t as great for our waistlines. One of the keys to a healthy weight while still getting all the nutrients and energy you need to enjoy life, is watching your portions or serve sizes.
Serve size is the amount of food you eat at one time. The recently updated Australian Dietary Guidelines has identified some basic serve sizes to help you get started:
|Pasta||½ cup of cooked pasta or just under 1/4 cup dry pasta||1 small bowl cooked|
|Bread||1 thin slice bread or ½ bread roll or flatbread|
|Cereal||2/3 cup cereal flakes or ½ cup cup of porridge or 1/4 cup muesli||1 small bowl of cereal|
|Potato||½ cup medium potato||About the half the size as a closed fist|
|Cooked vegetables – eg broccoli, cauliflower, beans, carrot etc||½ cup||Aim to have your veggies take up half of your plate at lunch and dinner|
|Salad vegetables – eg lettuce, tomato, cucumber etc||1 cup|
|Corn on the cob||1 small cob||½ cup corn|
|Fruit||1 medium piece||Medium fruits are apples, pears, bananas etc|
|2 small pieces||Small fruits are apricots, kiwi fruits, plums etc|
|Fruit juice||½ cup (no added sugar)||½ cup of fruit juice has the same value as a whole apple|
|Sultanas/dried apricots||1 ½ tablespoons/4 dried apricots||About the same amount that you can comfortably hold in your hand|
|Cheese||40g cheese or 2 thin slices||About the same size as a match box|
|Yoghurt||2/3 cup or 200g yoghurt||1 small carton|
|Steak/cooked lean chicken||65g cooked/80g cooked||About the same size as your palm without your fingers|
|Fish||100g cooked||About the same size as your hand including your fingers|
|Mince meat||½ cup cooked|
|Eggs||2 large eggs|
|Nuts – eg almonds, peanuts||1/3 cup or 30g||A small handful|
|Click on the links below to see what an appropriate portion size looks like.VegetablesFruitMeat and Protein
Images from this = that: a life size photo guide to food serves courtesy of www.foodtalk.com.au
If you want to indulge in a treat food, enjoy a small portion and savour the flavour. To avoid temptation, buy single serves or individual portions of treat foods rather than big blocks of chocolate or family sized packets of biscuits. If you are eating out, try sharing a dessert or ask for an entrée serve size of a meal, especially if you know that serving sizes are large and order a side serve of salad or vegetables.
The number of serves from each food group you need to meet your nutritional needs depends on many things such as your age, height, weight and how active you are. For individualised advice about how many serves you need look no further than an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Try to cut down on your serve sizes to match those in this table. Look at the energy comparison of this snack food:
Large Muffin 190g: 2240kJ
Medium Muffin 80g: 945kJ
For individualised advice on reading food labels look no further than an Accredited Practising Dietitian