Food Labels – confused??

You’re in the supermarket and have the choice between normal chocolate digestives and 30% reduced fat chocolate digestives. You should choose the reduced fat ones, right? And you can eat a few more than usual because they’re healthier!!

Unfortunately, WRONG! Take a look at the label………McVities reduced fat digestive are only 9 calories and 1g of fat less than the standard ones.

Research has shown that when choosing the reduced fat versions of any food, people tend to eat 50% more than if they ate the standard product. That’s what we call ‘the Halo Effect’. The Halo Effect is a positive thing for fruit and veg, but not so much for biscuits!

What do the words on food labels really mean?

  • reduced/lower fat/light – 25% lower than standard version. Can still be high in fat, sugar and calories. eg. Cathedral City mature cheddar has 34.9g of fat per 100g, and the ‘lighter’ version has 21.8g. Although that’s 30% less fat, it’s still classed as high.
  • low fat – less than 3g fat per 100g, can be high in sugar (sugar is 0% fat!)
  • no added sugar – this doesn’t mean no sugar. e.g. fruit juice can be unsweetened, but is naturally very sweet. A 200ml glass of orange juice has 90 calories, 20g carbs (equivalent to 4 teaspoons sugar)
  • flavoured – e.g. raspberry flavoured – doesn’t contain any raspberries

Per 100g serving:

              A lot               A little

Sugar     10g                  2g

Fat          20g                  3g

 Salt        1.5g                 0.3g

My advice?

Everything is fine in moderation, there are no good and bad foods. However, don’t be fooled that you can eat extra of something because it’s labelled low this or reduced that. Keep your portion control  (more on portion sizes in the near future).

If you want a biscuit, have one, not 5. If you want cheese, great, but a portion is just 30g, or the size of a small matchbox. One glass of fruit juice counts as a portion of fruit, just don’t go overboard by drinking a whole litre carton.

Educate yourself on food labels. Take some packets out of your cupboard and compare with the table above to see if they have high or low fat/sugar/salt per 100g. Look at the ingredients list……..sometimes the fewer ingredients, the better!

Think about nourishing your body with real food. Rather than relying on processed packaged foods with long lists of ingredients, fill up on the wholesome, natural foods: fruit, veg, lean protein, wholegrains etc.



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