We all know the freshest food (and the food that is best for you) doesn’t come in a packet! In a perfect world, there would be no need to read labels on food, but in the prepackaged world we live in buying processed foods is inevitable.

Even though there are a number of claims on the front of every packet, the truth lies in the nutritional information panel on the back of your food. It should always be your first point of reference when choosing your food, and can even reveal a number of things. Here are my 5 tips for reading food labels.

When comparing products use the per 100 grams column not per serving. It’s easy to look at the ‘per serving’ column and think you’re making a great choice. But let’s be honest, how big are your actual servings? If you’re looking at the nutritional information on the per serving column, you need to make sure you stick to the correct serving size. Food companies have been shrinking the serving size of products for years in order to shift the nutritional information so it looks better for you. Looking at per 100g allows you to be consistent and clear on your choice of food.

Aim for under 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams. We all know while sugar tastes great, it’s not good for you and has highly addictive qualities. Manufacturers substitute fat with sugar to keep the taste of food, so keeping your sugar consumption down is crucial. Read our post on hidden sugars to learn more.

Check the order of the ingredients list. In Australia and New Zealand, all ingredients in a food product must be listed in order from largest to smallest by weight. So if ‘sugar’ is in your first three ingredients, we recommend you stay clear of that product. Other things to look out for include artificial sweeteners (as a guide, anything that ends in “tose” or “itol”), excessive amounts of preservatives (see point 5) or allergens for your own personal diet.

Ignore the Percent of Daily Intake. A trick to make you feel good about what you eat, this ‘Daily Intake’ percentage tends to be misleading for shoppers. This percentage refers to the ‘average adult’ intake. The challenge is that no two people have the same caloric daily needs, so what suits one person may not be right for another.

Beware of numbers in your ingredient list. All numbers in your ingredients list refer to some sort of additive. This might be a flavour enhancer, mineral or preservative. Here is a full list of food additives. Not all are bad for for you but there are a few highlights. The 600-650 are all flavour enhancers including MSG.

We hope this has helped you navigate the aisles in your supermarket. If you find any of our information useful please sign up to our mailing list below and leave a comment.