Reading food labels
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Reading food labels

Nutrition information panels and ingredients lists are a good way of comparing similar foods so you can choose the healthiest option.

Key takeaways

  • The quantity per 100g or ml column is best when comparing different brands of similar products.
  • When comparing products, look at the food as a whole, rather than deciding based on just one nutrient alone.
  • 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. 
Almost all packaged foods are required to display a Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) on the packet. The information included on the NIP must meet government standards, so you can be sure that the information is reliable. 

Nutrition information panels and ingredients lists are a good way of comparing similar foods so you can choose the healthiest option.

How to read a food label



The first step is to find the nutrition information panel. It’s usually located on the back or side of the product packaging. Once you’ve found the nutrition information panel, the next step is to locate the ingredients – often they’re to the side or below the nutritional panel.

Nutrition information panels always list:

  • Energy (kilojoules)
  • Protein
  • Fat (total) 
  • Saturated fat 
  • Carbohydrate (total)
  • Sugars
  • Sodium
Other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, fibre and other types of fat (unsaturated, trans, cholesterol) may also be listed.

Comparing products

When comparing products, look at the food as a whole, rather than deciding based on just one nutrient alone.
The quantity per 100g or ml column is best when comparing different brands of similar products.

The 'per serving' column can help 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. 

Fats

Use the per 100g or 100 ml column to compare similar products to choose the option with less saturated or trans fat – the unhealthy fats. Trans fat is often not listed on the nutrition information panel, which can make it hard to choose a healthy option.

Avoid foods with ‘partially hydrogenated’ vegetable oil or vegetable fat, animal fat, copha, palm oil and coconut oil listed in the ingredients list. For example, it is advisable to limit intake of foods like bakery goods such as sausage rolls, meat pies, cakes and biscuits. 


Learn more about adding healthy fats to your diet.

Sodium (salt)

When you read the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP), it’s important to remember that the salt content of the food product will be listed as ‘sodium’. 

To compare the sodium content of two similar products, you should read the “Per 100g” column of the NIP. 
To choose a ‘low salt’ food product, select one that has less than 120mg of sodium per 100g. 

Remember, eating too much sodium can put you at risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, which is why it’s important to know how to read the NIP so you can choose a lower sodium product.
Check the ingredient list for other names for salt, such as sodium, monosodium glutamate, and vegetable salt.

Read more about salt and heart health.

You might also be interested in

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

One the easiest steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure is choosing healthy foods....

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

Getting the right balance of fats in your diet can improve your heart health....

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Search all of our heart healthy recipes ...

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Eating healthy foods can help you recover and reduce your risk of more heart problems. ...

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Lower your cholesterol, whether you're eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or even a snack....

Nutrition action plan

Nutrition action plan

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Not all dairy products are equal. Discover different types of dairy foods and their impact on heart health....

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Check out our recipe categories to find your next heart healthy meal....

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Discover key information on heart-healthy eating and drinking....

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join our community of fundraisers who are committed to taking action to fight heart disease....

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Trek for Australian Hearts

Trek for Australian Hearts

Trek for Australian Hearts

Join the Heart Foundation in South Australia for the journey of a lifetime, trekking the ancient Flinders Ranges to help save Australian hearts....

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Personal Walking Plan

Personal Walking Plan

Personal Walking Plan

Feel healthier and happier in six weeks with a free Personal Walking Plan...

Heart Week

Heart Week

Heart Week

Support for young adults: Online events

Support for young adults: Online events

Support for young adults: Online events

A series of virtual events for young adults on managing emotional wellbeing. ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Research connect newsletter

Research connect newsletter

Research connect newsletter

The Research Connect Newsletter provides monthly updates on the Heart Foundation Research Program....

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Discover what you need to know about being active after a heart attack....

Cardiac rehabilitation resources for healthcare providers

Cardiac rehabilitation resources for healthcare providers

Useful cardiac rehabilitation resources for health professionals....

Chicken recipes

Chicken recipes

Chicken recipes

Find heart healthy chicken recipes....

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Cardiac rehabilitation was a turning point for Kylie and essential to her heart failure recovery....

Lamb recipes

Lamb recipes

Lamb recipes

Find heart healthy lamb recipes....

Smoking and tobacco regulation

Smoking and tobacco regulation

There are still more than 20,000 deaths caused by smoking every year....

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

Cooking at home is often healthier than eating out....

Supporting SA cardiac patients and health professionals with free resources

Supporting SA cardiac patients and health professionals with free resources

Supporting SA cardiac patients and health professionals with free resources

We want to make it easier for South Australians to lead heart-healthy lives....

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

We are Australia’s biggest non-government funder of world-class research into heart health. Learn more about our high impact research. ...

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm didn’t worry too much about his cholesterol problem – until an angiogram revealed he had an 80 per cent blockage in a major heart artery. ...

Key Statistics: Coronary Heart Disease

Key Statistics: Coronary Heart Disease

Statistics and information on coronary heart disease in Australia ...

Nutrition Position Statements

Nutrition Position Statements

Nutrition Position Statements

The Heart Foundation’s food and nutrition position statements have been developed to keep you informed about our position on a range of nutrition issues relating to heart health. ...

What is an arrhythmia?

What is an arrhythmia?

What is an arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia is a fault in the heart’s electrical system, which affects your heart’s pumping rhythm....

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Eating healthy foods can help you recover and reduce your risk of more heart problems. ...

National tobacco strategy

National tobacco strategy

Frameworks supporting tobacco control in Australia ...

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Media Release 20 October 2020...

Aussie men among the world’s most obese, new data

Aussie men among the world’s most obese, new data

Aussie men among the world’s most obese, new data

Media Release - 16 November 2020...

Heart disease and pregnancy

Heart disease and pregnancy

Heart disease and pregnancy

Pregnancy is often referred to as the “ultimate stress test” for the body....