If food labels were as easy as eating the food...........

Hello all,

This is off topic of “triathlon” however it is a topic and a education that may assist you in understanding nutrition. The topic today is food labels

Food Labels (insert a food labal pic)

Nowadays it is required by all food producing companies to provide the nutritional information for their products detailing macro-nutrients and ingredients.  Now for many people, reading these labels may be like reading double dutch, and where you might think that something might be "good" "healthy"  you may be surprised.  So with this in mind lets explain a few things and simplify a few terms in hope that reading labels become a little clearer.

What we will cover Ingredients Marco-nutrient breakdown Terminology Health  Claims Other info


First of all, what makes up your food are the materials used to make it.... It is required by law that Food Manufacturers list the ingredients used in descending order by weight (from the most to the least). So what this means is that the ingredient used most will be listed first. Macro- Nutrients

Listed on the food label will be a breakdown of the energy in the food or the calories or sometimes listed as kilo-calories which can further add to confusion.  Normally nutritional values will be listed per 100g or total serving.  This is were most people get confused, as how much is a serving? Or is that the dry weight? or cooked weight? You need to look carefully at label.

The Daily Values section shows how a food fits into your overall daily diet. The value of the nutrient is given in percentages. The Percent Daily Value gives the food's nutritional content normally based on a  2,000-calorie diet. You can use this to quickly compare foods and see how the amount of a nutrient in a serving of food fits into a  2,000-calorie diet.   

Lets have a look at a food label above and break it down.  Before we start we should be aware pf the calorific content of each macronutrient per gram.

1g of Carbohydrate and Protein equal 4 calories and 1g of fat equals 9 calories.  

Lets take an example, if a label gives the serving size as 115g and there are 4 servings the total weight is 460g.  

The calories and breakdown for one serving would be as follows.

In total there are 250 Calories one serving and this is made up from

Total Carbohydrate= 26g meaning that I will calculate as follows 26x4=104 calories from carbs and all from sugar Total Protein = 4g meaning that I will calculate as follows 4x4=16 calories from protein Total Fat= 14g meaning that I will calculate as follows 14x9= 126 calories from fat of which 9g is saturated fat 81 calories.  The saturated fat makes up 32 percent of the calories.

Moving on to claims we see on labels


You will often see foods that declare they are fat free, light, lite sugar free!!!! how do they determine this.  I have listed below what some mean!

NUTRIENT CONTENT CLAIMS These terms are called a nutrient content claims and they are  words or phrases  on a food package that makes a comment about the nutritional value of  the food. The claim will mean the same for every product. The following  are some approved nutrient claims.

Calorie terms:

Low-calorie =40 calories or less per serving Reduced-calorie = at least 25% fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food

Light, Lite = One-third fewer calories or 50% less fat per  serving; if more than half the  calories are from fat, fat content must be  reduced by 50% or more

Sugar terms:

Sugar-free =Less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving Reduced sugar= At least 25% less sugar per serving when compared  with a similar food.

Fat terms:

Fat-free =Less than 1/2 gram fat per serving 100% fat free =Meets requirements for fat free Low-fat =3 grams fat or less per serving Reduced-fat = At least 25% less fat when compared with a similar food

Cholesterol terms: Cholesterol-free= Less than 2  milligrams cholesterol per serving and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving. Low-Cholesterol =20 milligrams or less cholesterol per serving and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving

Sodium terms Sodium-free = Less than 5 milligrams sodium per serving Salt-free = Meets requirements for  sodium-free

Health Claim

These can also be found on food labels and again they have to meet a certain criteria in order to put them on!!!   The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves and regulates health claim phrases. A health claim is a food label message that describes the relationship between a food or food component, such as fat, calcium, or fibre, and a disease or health-related condition.

The government allows health claims for these seven diet and health relationships that are backed by extensive scientific evidence: 1. Calcium and osteoporosis 2. Fat and cancer 3. Fibre-containing grain products, fruits, vegetables and cancer 4. Fibre-containing fruits, vegetables, and grain products and (coronary heart disease) 5. Fruits, vegetables and cancer  6. Saturated fat and cholesterol and coronary heart disease 7. Sodium and high blood pressure  (hypertension)

Other Information

You come across food that have no food labels and there are  foods that are exempt These include:

Airline foods

Bulk food that is not resold

Food service vendors (such as mall cookie vendors, sidewalk vendors, and vending machines)

Hospital cafeterias

Medical foods

Flavor extracts

Food colour

Food produced by small businesses

Other foods that contain no significant amounts of any nutrients

Plain coffee and tea

Ready-to-eat food prepared primarily on the site

Restaurant foods ( this is changing)


Food labels can be confusing, but a skill that if more understood may result in better food choices being made.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and until next week.

Stay healthy

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