How to Use Food Labels to Help You Lose Weight | Nutrition
Labels on food packaging can be very tricky and confusing to understand. While we often ask, “What do they mean?” and “How do I use them?”, we still don’t exert effort to work out their meaning and purpose.
The truth is however, you can make the best choice for your health just by knowing what nutrition information to look for. If you do, you can avoid unnecessary saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and accidental calories.
Here are a few quick tips to help you shop for healthy foods and lose weight using food labels a whole lot easier and quicker.
Why It is ImportantPackaged foods can often include many different types of food labels. It’s because according to the National Health and Medical Research Council of the Australian Government Department of Health, most packaged food must meet strict label requirements. Labels can carry many different types of information.
Aside from informing you of the nutritional contents and ingredients of packaged foods and how to properly store them, labels also provide information for people with food allergies. When choosing healthy food however, the main label to look at is the Nutrition Information Panel.
Nutrition Information Panel
The Nutrition Information Panel offers the easiest and simplest way to help you choose foods with more fibre, and less calories, added sugars, salt (sodium), and saturated or trans fat.
You can also use the Nutrition Information Panel to decide how much of a certain food group you would like to eat in a single meal. If you are trying to lose weight, this is particularly important.
Calories (kJ or kilojoules) Explained. Source: SA Health, Government of South Australia.
Ingredients ListThe Ingredients List is also an important type of food label. It lists all ingredients in a food product. Like the Nutrition Information Panel, an Ingredient List must be included in all packaged foods.
The Ingredient List always lists the order of the ingredient that is of highest quantity in the product, for example if water is the first ingredient in the list, that’s the ingredient that’s most prevalent. If saturated fat, salt, and/or sugars is in the top three, that means the product is high in these ingredients and therefore may not be the best choice. This makes it easier for consumers to spot foods that might be high in these ingredients.
Using Food Labels to Help You Lose Weight
Sources of calories include one source or a combination of carbohydrate, fat, alcohol, sugars, or protein. To promote weight loss in your body, you need to eat and drink fewer calories than your body actually uses each day.
Still, if the list of ingredients is high in fat or sugars, it is a good reason to check how high the calories are in the serving that you would eat.
Also, it’s best to avoid discretionary foods (to get the Department of Health’s list of discretionary foods, click here) if you want to lose weight. While they may provide plenty of calories, they contain few nutrients.
If you can’t keep yourself from eating discretionary foods however, make sure to include small servings and eat them occasionally only. Beware of foods that may look like a single serve, when actually, they contain several servings in one packaging.
To learn more about diet and nutrition, and how it affects your health, fitness, and training, visit the Aussie Supps Nutrition Hub online and in-store (check out our Facebook or Contact Us page to learn how to get there). I'll be your in-house nutritionist to take care of your health and diet needs.
By Sian Skinner Smith
Aussie Supps Nutrition Hub Head Nutritionist