Written by accredited dietitian Themis Chryssidis
From Sprout Cooking School & Health Studio
We chat to Dietician Themis Chryssidis to understand how to read food labels to make it easy for you, and most importantly, empower you to make informed decisions when it comes to buying your groceries.
If you don’t know how to read a food label, you’re at the mercy of the vague nutrient and health claims of food manufacturers, or you end up making broad generalised statements such as “low fat means high sugar,” which certainly isn’t true. The only way to truly know what you’re putting in your trolley and body, is to read (and understand) the food label. Here’s how:
All the ingredients in a product are listed in order of weight from highest to lowest. The ingredient list must also specify the percentage of any characterising ingredient, for example, the percentage of strawberries in strawberry jam.
So, if an ingredient list contains a large amount of low nutrient ingredients, especially towards the start of the list, such as salt or sugar, the product probably requires a little more consideration!
Nutrition and health claims and nutrition information panels (NIP) are two very different things!
Nutrition and health claims
Nutrition claims and health claims are vague statements made by food manufacturers to make a product sound more appealing. Ultimately these statements are irrelevant. Just because one cereal says “high in fibre” doesn’t mean that it’s higher in fibre than another cereal that doesn’t include this statement, or even higher in fibre than another cereal that does include the statement! Ultimately read the NIP and judge for yourself.
Nutrition information panels (NIP)
The information found in a nutrition information panel refers directly to the nutrient content of the product. You’re free to interpret this objective data and make your own opinion about the nutrient quality of the food and whether you want to purchase it.
When interpreting a NIP, always compare products per 100g and avoid comparing per serve as the serving size is determined by the manufacturer and can often differ between products. We want to compare apples with apples!
Themis Chryssidis is an Accredited Practising Dietitian at Sprout Health Studio – a multidisciplinary health care studio in Adelaide. He has a Bachelor of Psychology, a Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Cert IV in Fitness.