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How to Read Food Labels

How to read food labels

How to Read Food Labels

Do you know how to read food labels?

It’s no secret that food and nutrition labels provide valuable information.

They are designed to allow consumers to make informed choices about what they are buying, however they can be confusing and difficult to understand. 

We hope our latest blog can help you decipher what’s on your food labels.

FSANZ Labelling Requirements

In Australia and New Zealand, a statutory body called FSANZ (Food Standards Australia & New Zealand) is responsible for setting food labelling standards.

All packaged foods must meet strict labelling requirements and should include the following:

  1. Nutrition information panel. This panel shows the average amount of nutrients in a serve and in 100g (or ml) of the product. 
  2. Percentage labelling. This shows the percentage of the key ingredient in the food, for example, 7% strawberries.
  3. Food identification. This refers to the name or description of the food, which must reflect its true nature, for example, Strawberry Yoghurt.
  4. Food allergens. Food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, Crustacea, fish, milk, eggs, sesame, soybeans, wheat, lupin, sulphites and cereals containing gluten. No matter how small the amount, these allergens must be declared on the food label, if present in the product. 
  5. Best before or use-by date
  6. Ingredients list. Ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight. For example, if an ingredient is listed first on the list, the product contains the most of this ingredient than others lower down in the list. 
  7. Weight or measure of the product
  8. Food additives
  9. Country of origin
  10. Directions for use and storage
  11. Health and nutrition claims. This includes ‘Low sugar’, ‘Low fat’ etc. 

Reading Nutrition Labels: What We Look For

When trying to choose a healthier product, there are 2 main components we look at:

1. Ingredients List

  • Check the ingredients list to see whether sugar, fat or salt is listed in the first 3 ingredients. If it is, there may be a healthier choice available.
  • Some companies use alternate terms for sugar, fat and salt. Those might include:
    • Sugar: Fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, glucose, golden syrup, brown sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar, honey, agave syrup or nectar, rice syrup, invert sugar, blackstrap molasses.
    • Fat: Beef fat, butter, cream, coconut oil, hydrogenated oil, margarine, milk solids, palm oil, vegetable oil, shortening, full cream milk powder, cocoa butter, lard.
    • Salt: Baking powder, garlic salt, onion salt, mineral salt, MSG, rock salt, sodium, sodium bicarbonate, sea salt, chicken salt, yeast extract, stock.

2. Nutrition Information Panel (NIP)

  • The ‘serve / serving size’ refers to the average serving size determined by the manufacturer. This may or may not be the same serving size you consume. For example, if the serving size is ¼ cup, and you are consuming ½ cup, you will be getting twice the calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates and other nutrients listed on the label in the per serve column. 
  • The ‘per 100g’ column is a useful and standardised way to compare the nutrient content of similar products. 
  • Aim for products high in protein and fibre, and low in sugar, fat and salt. 

Lower the betterHigher the better
  • Saturated Fat: aim for less than 3g of saturated fat per 100g
  • Protein: aim for 15-30g protein per meal and 5-15g protein per snack.

Aim for at least 60-80g of protein, spread evenly throughout the day. 

  • Sugars: aim for less than 10-15g of sugar per 100g
  • Fibre: aim for at least 7.5g of fibre per 100g OR 3g per serve.

Note: some products such as yoghurt do not naturally contain any fibre.

  • Sodium: aim for less than 120mg of sodium (salt) per 100g.
  • Exception: up to 400mg per 100g is acceptable for some products.

How to Read Food Labels

For further information regarding food and nutrition labels and how to read them, please speak to one of our Dietitians on 3871 2277 or via email at

Brisbane Obesity Surgery | Weight Loss Surgery | Brisbane Obesity Clinic

Are ready to make some decisions about your health?

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