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Do you know how to read and understand the food labels of the products you buy? Product labels provide us with useful information but remember they are also there to help sell the product!  You need to look closely if you really want to understand what you are eating. The following 5 simple rules will help you understand more about what’s in the products you buy.

1. Pay attention to how much, sugar, salt, and calories are in the product.

Ingredients are listed in order of weight. The first ingredient has the greatest % content and the last the smallest.

Food labels illustrate the fat, carbohydrate, sugar, and calorie content per 100g. Remember that gives you the percentage: 20g sugar per 100g = 20%.


2. Know what is a little and what is a lot when it comes to fat, sugar, and salt?

10g Of sugar is a lot and 2 g is a little.

1.25g Of salt is a lot and 0.25g is a little.

0.5g Of sodium is a lot and 0.1g is a little.


3. Check the Carbohydrates

When buying starchy foods, such as bread, rice, and pasta, look for whole grains. Avoid any form of sugar, white or refined foods, and look for hidden starches in the ingredient list such as potato starch and corn starch because all of these have a high glycemic load and will be broken down into sugar by the body and will affect your blood sugar levels.

4. Avoid Trans Fats

Avoid anything on the food label that says hydrogenated. These are trans fats or damaged fats, which are unhealthy.

5. Avoid Additives

Avoid colorants, flavorings, preservatives, thickeners, etc. Additives deemed safe by the EU are given an E number. However, they have effects on some people. For example, E155 can trigger asthma in some people. Reducing additive intake overall is a good thing and you can do this by eating less processed foods and more whole organic foods.



1. Dessy, M. (2017) The Pantry principle: How to read the label and understand what’s really in your food. The Woodlands, TX: Versadia Press.

2. McGuire, M. & Beerman, K.A. (2013) Nutritional Science: From Fundamentals to Food. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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