I’ve been blabbing on about how you should read labels in a lot of my posts. One of my first posts was even about why I think you should read them. But it occurred to me I haven’t actually told you how to read labels.
So I wanted to share my approach to reading and analysing food labels based on my beliefs on eating (that being fructose free, no preservative and now low gluten!). I feel it’s a simple and easy way to understand what you are consuming. Hopefully this helps you make healthier food choices.
Here is my Three Step Process to Reading a Label:
Read the ingredients.
What I look out for:
- Preservatives: these are generally bad. If you are unsure simply plug the number into an app (I use the “E Number Guide”) or go over to The Trusted Trolley which has very detailed information.
- Unhealthy oils: I avoid vegetable oils
- Sweeteners: as I follow a low fructose diet I avoid high fructose sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, apple sauce and agave).
- Things you don’t recognise. I don’t want to eat something I don’t even know what it is. Simple!
Reading the ingredients is super important as you can’t assume anything! Even “organic” products can contain ingredients I consider unhealthy. This was illustrated to me this week when I made a rookie error and ordered something online without knowing the ingredients. The Almond Milk I purchased contained sunflower oil and agave syrup.
Look at the Sugar content.
I look for products that are between 3% to 6% sugar. How do you know that?
- Look at the sugars per 100g. Whatever the number is per 100g is the %. So in the jam label above, this product is 31.5% sugar. Yuck!
- The exception to this rule is dairy products – they contain lactose and so have a higher sugar content (about 4.7g of the sugar content/100g is lactose). Don’t get caught up on this one, as for dairy it is pretty easy to assume anything flavoured is going to be bad for you anyway!
Look at the Salt content.
Choose “low salt” foods – less than 120mg of sodium per 100g.
I don’t tend to focus on this one too much – however salt consumption is something you need to be mindful of (especially for little ones).
When Do I Make Exceptions?
Well this is the beauty of being able to make our own choices. I make exceptions occasionally, but they are based on my own “funny” rules that I have made up!
As I eat a low fructose diet, I don’t cook with agave syrup or dates as they are high in fructose. I do from time to time purchase products that contain these (and eat them!), if the remainder of the ingredients are high quality and healthy.
Example being the granola I picked up at the Farmers Markets last week. As you can see it has agave as an ingredient and consequently the sugar content is 14.5%. Given the fantastic nutrient quality of the other ingredients, I still purchased it – knowing that we will eat it occasionally. And I can tell you – it was delicious!
Same for the AMAZING fudge bars I purchased from this stall – they contained dates but had a whole heap of other goodies in them, so it didn’t bother me to try them.
This goes to show there is no one size fits all diet – you need to eat what works for you!
The most important thing is just to be aware and not stress about it.
Do you feel like you can read a label easier now?
If not – please take a photo of any you are unsure of and share it on my Facebook page and I will assess it!!!