Ever selected a certain brand of yoghurt because the label says “all natural”?

Or picked up a loaf of bread specifically for its “multigrain” goodness?

We all want to get into healthy eating habits and find ways to live a healthy lifestyle.

But are the nutrition and health claims guidance on food packaging as reliable as we think?

According to a Nielson survey, nearly 59% of consumers don’t know what information on food labels is important to read.

But if you want to learn how to read food labels, here are a few phrases to be wary of, so you’ll be more savvy with your supermarket shop.

 

All natural

This generally means there will be no added colours, flavours or synthetic substances. But there could still be preservatives, added sodium, and even added sugars from ‘natural’ sources like high fructose corn syrup. So watch out.

 

Multigrain

A misconception when it comes to nutrition is that multigrain equals healthy. What you should look for is wholegrain or 100% whole wheat. Wholegrains have more fibre and nutrients than grains which have been refined – a process which strips away the healthiest parts. Don’t even accept ‘made with wholegrain’ as there could be just the tiniest bit.

 

No added sugar

Those watching their weight or perhaps living with diabetes would think they’re onto a winner with this healthy nutrition information. But they’d be wrong. Many foods contain natural sugars, and this label does not guard against added ingredients like maltodextrin – a carbohydrate which can raise blood sugar. No added sugar does not mean a product is calorie free.

 

Sugar free

These products contain less than half a gram of sugars per serving – but they still have calories and carbohydrates from other sources. And don’t be fooled - they will contain calories. Commonly, they also contain sugar alcohols like mannitol, xylitol and sorbitol, which have half the calories of sugar but can cause diarrhoea if consumed to excess.

 

Fat free

These products sometimes contain as many calories as full-fat versions. It doesn’t mean it isn’t loaded with sugar – in the same way the sugar-free products can be loaded with fat.

 

Light

It is important to read the guide to nutrition on these products, because they may just be lighter on flavour than ingredients. The wording can be confusing, but generally the fat content should be 50% less than in the brand’s full fat version. However, a brand comparison is worthwhile here, as one brand may have less than half the fat of another anyway.

 

For help with health marketing, contact us on 0800 612 9890.