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What The Food Label Says Versus What It Really Means

When strolling down the supermarket aisle with our eyes on the look out for the best deals or a healthy snack, our attention is often caught by the appealing “no added sugar” or “baked not fried” labels. Whilst these claims might help you to interpret food choices, many are misleading or misread. So with the help of Catherine Saxelby’s Nutrition For Life, here are some tips to sort out fact from fiction on the classic claims of food labels.

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Low Fat

Whilst this may sound healthy, do not be fooled! This is not the overall choice for health. To officially qualify for this label, it must contain less than 3 per cent of fat for every 100 grams of the food. Also there are many fats that are actually good for the body. While it may be ” low in fat” there can still be lots of refined starch and added sugar.

Baked Not Fried

This claim can often appear on snack foods and whilst it sounds healthier, these foods could still have as much fat as fried items so check the rest of the label. In particular check to see if the fats are saturated. These are the types of fats we want to avoid.

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No artificial colours or flavours

This is a key phrase which can catch our eye. But it is often over used and put on foods where artificial colours or flavours are not permitted anyway, such as bread and breakfast cereals. Always check the back of the label for “real” flavours.

Lite or Light

Just because a food might be labelled “light” or “lite” does not always mean that the food is low in kilojoules or fat as many dieters believe. For example “light” potato crisps can be lightly salted and thinly sliced but still might have the same amount of fat as ordinary crips. Light foods must state the characteristic that makes the food light, for example light beer might mean lower in alcohol as opposed to carbohydrates. The spelling of “lite” is just another form of the word “light”.

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No Cholesterol or Cholesterol free.

This claim really is meaningless so pay no attention. Cholesterol from food is not the worry. It is the trans fats and saturated fats that you should cut back on if your blood cholesterol is high. No cholesterol does not necessarily mean no fat. For example, an egg has significant cholesterol but is healthy for you and high in good fats.

No Added Sugar

This usually means that the sugar in this food is not added from cane sugar. However it could still contain sugar from honey, agave, rice malt syrup, panela, glucose, fructose, malt, malt extract or maltose. Some of these more natural sugars could still have similar kilojoules as cane sugar. Such as fruit juices, sugar free lollies or chewing gum.

Written by Sadie Archibald

Sadie Archibald is a lifestyle writer for The Carousel.

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