Use the labels on food packaging to make healthier choices
- How to compare products
- What to look for under the main nutrients
How to read a food label
Nutrition information panels and ingredients lists are a good way of comparing similar foods so you can choose the healthiest one.
Nutrition information panels always list: energy (kilojoules), protein, fat (total), saturated fat, carbohydrate (total), sugars and sodium. Other nutrients like vitamins and minerals, fibre and other types of fat (unsaturated, trans, cholesterol) can also be listed, usually to support any nutritional claims the product is making.
In Australia, the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand sets mandatory standards for what information must be on labels. This includes nutrition information panels, ingredient list and health and nutrition claims.
How to compare products
Look at the food as a whole rather than deciding based on just 1 nutrient alone.
The quantity per 100 g or ml column is best when comparing different brands of similar products. The 'per serving' column allows you to understand the amount of nutrients you might be eating when you serve out that specific portion of the food.
It’s important to keep in mind that the ‘per serving’ value varies depending on the type of food and the brand. It doesn’t necessarily mean you eat the serve size specified on the pack. For example, you might eat more or less than 100 g of the product such as 10 ml of oil or 250 ml of milk.
Six steps to good heart health
Following these simple steps lets you cut down on unhealthy fats, sugar and salt easily.
Use the per 100 g or 100 ml column to compare similar products to choose the option with less saturated fat. Trans fat is often not listed on the nutrition information panel. Avoid foods with ‘partially hydrogenated’ vegetable oil or vegetable fat listed in the ingredients list. Avoiding foods like bakery goods (sausage rolls, meat pies, cakes, biscuits) also helps to limit your trans fat intake.
Salt is listed in the nutrition information panel as sodium. Look for foods labelled 'no added salt' or 'salt reduced' as these will be lower in sodium compared to similar foods. Use the per 100g column to identify food products with less sodium. Read about recommended salt intake and how to reduce it.