Food labelling

It can be complex trying to decipher the labelling of some foods, so here are some helpful hints to make things easier and to help you make better choices.

  • Companies are not legally required to put these traffic light labels on their food labelling and those that don’t are often avoiding it because a row of reds tells you everything you need to know about the product!
  • To be clear on the system, red doesn’t mean you can’t eat the food. It’s just letting you know that the product is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar and so should be consumed in smaller quantities and less often. Amber means the product is neither high or low in those nutrient groups and so can be eaten most of the time and green is low. So aim for more greens and ambers and less reds.
  • If the manufacturer has conveniently “forgotten” to include a traffic light on the item, here’s a summary of what constitutes each colour (taken from the British Nutrition Foundation’s website).

And to help you remember without having to look this up regularly, the word FAT has 3 letters and you want less than 3g of fat per 100g in a low fat food. Similarly, the word SUGAR has 5 letters in it and you want less than 5g of sugar per 100g in a low sugar food.

  • Be careful of products that claim to be ‘low in fat’! They may well be (as they are required to meet the ranges above to make the claim), but stripping fat out of products compromises flavour and so sugar and/or salt is typically added to improve the taste.
  • If the list of ingredients is really long and you don’t recognise most of the ingredients (many of which have very chemical sounded names) then it’s likely as far from a whole / unprocessed food as you can find, so perhaps wise to make another choice.

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