How To Read Food Labels | Top Tips

Written by Chloe Thurston

Food Labels

Nutrition labels are the main tools in aiding you to make the best decisions and keep track on the amount of fat, salt or sugar within the substance. All packaged food and drink that you find in any shop will have a food label attached to the back, side or front of them. The information on them will include:

» Kilojoules (kj)

» Kilocalories  (aka calories kcal)

» Fat

» Saturated Fat

» Carbohydrates

» Sugars

» Protein

» Salt

food labels

All the nutritional information provided will either be per 100g or per portion. Be careful because our idea of a portion may not be the same size as the food manufacturers. The amount of fat, saturates, sugar and salt are also compared to your reference intakes on the label. This is so that you can see how much that product is going to be contributing towards your daily intake. Therefore, if a food contains 70% of your daily intake of fat then you know that it isn’t going to be healthy choice for you.

“What Does A Balanced Diet Look Like?”


The traffic light systems is a great tool in helping us figure out whether these food choices are ones that we can eat all of the time, most of the time or occasionally. Red is high, amber is medium and green means low. If you are deciding between two products and one has more green but the other has more red, then you know that the first option is the healthier choice. However, just as I mentioned before, you need to keep check on the portion size on the front.

example label

Good Example:

good labels


 Bad Example

bad labels

Ingredient List:


Not only is there nutritional information on the packaging but there is also a list of all the ingredients within the product. The ingredients list is what can also help you decide how healthy or unprocessed a substance is. The fewer the ingredients there are on a food label then the less processing and additives have been put into it. The ingredients are listed in order of weight within the product so, the main ingredients are those that are at the top. For example, if a products first two ingredients are butter and cream then you know that it is high in fat.


Food Allergens:


For all of us out there that suffer from food allergies and find food shopping a stressful time, then food labels are your new best friend. Within the food labels the 14 main allergens that are included in the product are written in bold within the ingredients or just below them with the subheading ‘allergens’. Therefore if you are allergic to any of the listed ingredients below, check to see if they are in bold on the food label:

» Eggs

» Milk

» Fish

» Crustaceans

» Molluscs

» Peanuts

» Tree nuts

» Sesame seeds

» Cereals containing gluten

» Soya

» Celery

» Mustard

» Lupin

» Sulphur dioxide


Overall, all of these food-labelling strategies are a tool in helping us make smart decisions when it comes to shopping. There is no such thing as ‘forbidden’ foods or foods that we should never eat because everything is fine in moderation. By using these tools we can make frequent healthy choices which will then allow us to occasionally have those ‘naughty’ foods because its all about moderation and balance.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye has a MSc in Sport Physiology and Nutrition, and puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. She enjoys a pun, and in her spare time loves dog walking and eating out.

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