Nutritional tables and information can be very confusing and a bit scary, so I am going to give you a few easy tips to remember about food labels.
What you’re mostly likely familiar with and have been informed to look at is the nutritional table, to check for sugars and fat content. This is all well and good, but tells you nothing about the product.
Just because there is a higher content of fat does not mean the product is bad, as the fats might be good fats. This goes for sugar also, as sugar is in fruit, which is very different to the sugar in a finger bun covered with icing sugar.
1. Read the Ingredient List Before the Nutritional Table
I am going to use fruit juice as an example, because these can either be a healthy drink or sugar in a bottle. There are essentially three types of juice: your freshly squeezed/ cold press juices, juices made from concentrate, and juices made from flavours. By reading the nutritional table, they all contain the same amount of sugar, but when reading the ingredients you are able to see that one is made with numbers, (avoid at all costs), one is made from concentrate, (which should also be avoided), and one is made with real fruit and vegetables and no additives.
2. Avoid as Much Packaged Food as Possible
Everything you need to live a healthy lifestyle can be purchased as a whole food. Sometimes we need to buy food in a packet. But instead of buying muffins that are full of additives to make it last longer, make your own. At least then you know what goes in it.
3. Avoid Anything with Numbers
You will commonly see 200 range numbers used to protect food against deterioration and microorganisms. These can sometimes be unavoidable, but try to limit them to one or two products and only if you have to consume them.
Never buy packets with the numbers ranging in the 100s, as these are artificial colours and have been linked to cancer and hyperactivity in children. Also avoid sweeteners numbered in the 900s. Unfortunately, Australia still permits the use of aspartame (951) and cyclamate (952) which are both linked to many different cancers and banned in other countries.
Flavour enhancers like MSG can cause short-term effects like headaches and asthmatic attack in those prone to asthma so avoid.
No numbers are good numbers. By reading the ingredients, you will also be able to see if the added sugar and types of fats used are good or bad. The sugar content on a nutritional label can be anything from dates and fruit to refined sugars.
Hopefully these 3 handy tips helped you get a better understanding of labels and how a nutritional table could be misinterpreted if it’s the only part you’re reading.