Healthy food : labelling uncovered


Do you understand what food labels are telling you? Yes. Okay so what are good fats, what are bad fats? What is an RDA? How much fibre should we eat? What is better for us, sugar or starch?

If you can't answer any of these key questions about food labels then please read on:

Introduction the food label
We have designed our own food label to illustrate this article. Please take a look. The packet information below refers to a packet of mixed nuts.

Nutritional value
Typical values Per 75g Per 100g
Energy 11550 kJ
492 k cal
655 k cal
Protein 11.1g 14.7g
Carbohydrates 3.8g 5.0g
of which is starch 2.6g 3.4g
of which is sugars 1.2g 1.6g
Fats 48.0g 64.0g
saturates 5.7g 7.5g
monounsaturated 22.8g 30.3g
polyunsaturated 10.2g 13.6g
Fibre 5.1g 6.7g
Salt 0.0g 0.0g
What it all means
The food label - or nutritional value - is a breakdown of the calories, proteins, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins and minerals found in food. As you can see mixed nuts are high in fat, are a medium source of protein and are low in carbohydrates. Below we discuss each category in more detail.

Energy describes the total amount of calories per 100g and more importantly the total number of calories per serving. This is an important point because many food labels quote the calorie total per 100g but carry a serving of 2-4 times that much - meaning that you will need to multiple the 100g total by the same number.

Proteins are amino acids. These acids are essential for tissue re-growth and muscle repair. Our diet should consist of between 15-25 percent protein. That means that if a food contains 100 calories, between 15-25 calories should come from amino acids.

Carbohydrates is the body's and mind's main source of energy. Carbohydrates are made up of starch (complex carbohydrates) and sugar (simple sugars). Overall your starch intake should by far exceed your simple sugar intake. Simple sugars are digested quickly and as such eating too much can increase your appetite (you'll feel hungry quicker) and even increase the risk of obesity (you'll start to compensate by eating more). Aim to eat between 50-60 percent of your diet as complex carbohydrates.

Fats come in two main types - saturated and unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Fats are essential for tissue repair and hormonal equilibrium. However as 1g of fat contains 9 calories (more than twice that for the same weight of protein and carbohydrates). there is a danger that eating too much fat could in fact increase your body's fat storage levels. The recommended amount of dietary fat is suggested to be between 25-35 percent of total calories and I'd suggest that you try not to exceed this level too often.

Fibre helps regulate bowel movement, prevents colon cancer and aids the cholesterol lowering process. It is recommended that we eat approximately 30g of fibre a day.

High intakes of sodium are linked to high blood pressure and feelings of dehydration. As such it is recommended that we don't eat more than 9g of salt a day.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) are sometimes carried by food labels to suggest how much of one (or a group) of vitamins we should consume for good health. Try and follow these recommendations as closely as possible each day. If you find this hard then I suggest that you purchase a multivitamin. This supplement usually carries essential vitamins as 100% of the RDA.

Don't be fouled
Low fat foods MUST carry only 3g of fat per 100g of food. However, because these foods are low in fat, food companies usually add sugar in order to regulate the taste and palatability of the food.

"85% Fat Free" doesn't mean a food is low fat option. It means that if 85% of the food is fat free, then the other 15% IS fat! This is okay in principle - we can eat 25-35% of our diet as fat. But too many of these meals may increase your total calorie intake. So beware, a low fat food may still mean that you can add weight and fail to lose weight.

Additional information
Why diets don't work
Why the fat burning zone is a myth
Weight loss myths exposed
Stress and worry can make you fat!



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All information on this website is for information only. offers no medical advice or information. Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness or exercise