Reading (and making sense of) the “Nutritional Information” Panel on Packaged Food

Ever felt completely lost when trying to pick the right product, especially trying to understand the nutritional information panel? Well I’m going to give you some tips to reading them.

First, look at the ingredients! (Points to note)

  • The ingredients are listed in the order of weight, with the largest ingredient listed first.
  • Does it look like a chemical recipe, full of ingredients you can’t read or pronounce? These are probably other names for sugars or names of preservatives and additives.
  • What item number is sugar, if any? If it’s one of the first couple ingredients, then this product will contain a lot of sugar.
  • Where is the supposed main ingredient listed in the ingredients? E.g. If you have a fruit flavoured product, where is that fruit listed? Near the top or bottom of the list? Therefore does this product even really contain  any of the fruit it claims to contain on the front of the package? Is that ingredient even listed, because sometimes it’s actually made up using other ingredients such as flavourings, juices or pulps from other ingredients?

Note that there are MANY different names for sugar (a lot end in the suffix “ose”). Here are some (50) names that sugar can be disguised under;  Barley malt, Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Buttered syrup, Cane juice crystals, Cane sugar, Caramel, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Confectioner’s sugar, Carob syrup, Castor sugar, Date sugar, Demerara sugar, Dextran, Dextrose, Diastatic malt, Diatase, Ethyl maltol, Fructose, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Galactose, Glucose, Glucose solids, Golden sugar, Golden syrup, Grape sugar, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Icing sugar, Invert sugar, Lactose, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Malt syrup, Maple syrup, Molasses, Muscovado sugar, Panocha, Raw sugar, Refiner’s syrup, Rice syrup, Sorbitol, Sorghum syrup, Sucrose, Sugar, Treacle, Turbinado sugar, Yellow sugar – So look out for these in the ingredients.

Next, look at the Nutritional Facts
If you want to compare similar foods, look at the “Quantity per 100g”, otherwise you’ll be spending all your time trying to do maths calculating back and forth the different suggestive serving sizes, between the different products. Also, some serving sizes are unrealistic, like half a tub of a small yogurt, when you know you’re going to eat the whole “single serve” tub. So don’t assume that the serving size is the quantity per package! If you want to understand this section better, read my article on packaged foods for optimal quantities of each item (i.e. Fat, Sugar, Salt, Fibre and Energy)

Feel free to leave a comment or email me, if you want to know more. You can also check out our FacebookTwitter and Pinterest pages.

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2 Responses to Reading (and making sense of) the “Nutritional Information” Panel on Packaged Food

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