How To Read A Nutrition Panel

Consumers generally have never been more aware of the role diet plays in the overall state of our health. The popularity of television programs about weight-loss, lifestyle and culinary pursuits speaks volumes for the number of people now trying to make changes to their food and exercise habits. They are searching through all available media to find information that will help them to make changes, but unless they are aware of it, they could be missing one of the easiest to find and most important sources of information available to them i.e. food packaging.

It is open to conjecture as to why this information is not better accessed, but one of the reasons could be that people simply don’t know how to read the nutritional information on the food packaging. There are some items that are self-explanatory such as the date marking, advising the date by which the contents should be used, the name and description of the food, directions for use and storage, name and business address of the manufacturer or importer and country of origin.

The nutrition panel contains a list of the ingredients, the percentage of the key or characterising ingredients in the food, information for allergy sufferers and the food additives. At the top of the panel directly under the words "Nutrition Information" can be seen the number of servings per package, and the size of each serving.

There are two columns next to the heading, "Energy". One is headed "Quantity per serving" and one "Quantity per 100g" (or in the case of liquids, 100ml). The numbers in these columns represent the kilojoules or the measurement of energy that will be consumed. These measurements are further categorised into protein, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars and sodium, in a typical food product.

In the next section are listed the ingredients. These are in descending order by ingoing weight, meaning that during manufacture the first ingredient listed contributed the largest amount, and the last ingredient contributed the least, compared to the other ingredients. This means that if fat, sugar or salt is at the top of the list, the product contains a greater proportion of these ingredients.

As a great starting point to managing to a healthy diet, read the nutrition panel before making a choice. As the groceries hit the plastic bags in Brisbane consumers who have educated themselves about what they are eating have taken an important step.

More training and information on how to read the labels would help consumers to be better informed and hopefully, better manage their food intake. Perhaps someone will make a television program about that.