HomeLifestyle & TravelHealth & Beauty3 steps to understanding the nutritional information on food packaging

3 steps to understanding the nutritional information on food packaging

If you’re looking at food packaging and don’t really know what you are reading or why it matters, you’re not alone…and we’re here to help. 

To help you make better food and eating choices, it’s important to look at the nutrition facts label when choosing products, as this is where you will find all sorts of useful information. Start with these three basics: 

Step 1: Portion size vs. serving suggestion – what’s the difference? 

A serving of food is the official amount that’s listed on the label, while a portion is the amount that you actually eat. While your portion may not always be the same size as the official serving, all the nutrition information that’s listed on the nutrition information panel does refer back to these serving sizes.

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Drinks: The current official serving size of a beverage is 250 millilitres, but many drinks come in much larger cans and bottles that may contain two or more servings. If you were to drink a 500-millilitre bottle of sweetened tea, you’d be drinking two servings, instead of one. This means that you would need to double all the information on the nutrition information panel (kilojoules and sugar) to work out how much you’ve taken in.

Snacks: A serving of potato crisps is generally 30 grams, which is about 15 individual crisps. However, if you’re eating from a large bag, you’re probably eating several servings without you even realising it. If you want to work out how many kilojoules you’ve consumed, you will need to count or weigh your crisps before eating them.

Step 2: Check the saturated fats, fibre and sugar

Labelling for protein, fat and carbohydrate content is provided on a per-serving basis. The same goes for sugar, fibre and salt. As with the example above, you also need to know how many servings you’re consuming, so that you can estimate your intake of these nutrients accurately.

It’s important to remember that the total carbohydrates listed includes all forms of carbohydrates, such as sugar and starch. Below that number, you may find separate listings for fibre and sugar. The listing for sugar includes added sugars as well as naturally occurring sugars (such as natural sugar in milk or fruit). With all of this in mind, it’s not always easy to know where the sugar is coming from without looking at the actual ingredients list.

Step 3: What does “percentage reference intake” mean?

Another piece of information that you may see on the label is a column with “% reference intake.” Reference intake refers to the standard recommended levels of intake for various nutrients that are established by the European Commission for use on food labels. The information in this column tells you what percentage of the recommended intake for each nutrient is found in a serving of food.

For more nutritional information, visit Herbalife.

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