Understanding food labels can help you choose the right things to eat when aiming for a healthy, balanced diet.
On food labels, the ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity.
Traffic light labelling
The traffic light colours correspond to the amount of energy, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in 100g of each food.
- A red light means a high amount of that nutrient.
- An amber light means it’s OK to have, but try to go for green on that nutrient some of the time.
- Green lights mean the food is low in this nutrient and is therefore good.
Healthy eating logos
These can help identify healthier options, but you still have to think about how the food fits into your diet. A healthy diet is made up of a variety of foods and balancing choices is more important than focusing on low-fat, low-sugar foods alone.
Products labelled ‘low’ contain less of a nutrient than those labelled ‘reduced’, but all are a healthier choice than standard versions of the same food.
Special claims on foods need to be treated with caution:
There’s no need to eat food labelled ‘suitable for diabetics’, they are no better for you than standard versions.
Also bear in mind that some foods are naturally low in fat, sugar or salt, or high in fibre. Starchy foods like cereals and pasta are always low in fat, yet some brands are sold with the claim ‘low-fat food’.
Most labels will give a break down of the nutritional value of the product in terms of:
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