Understanding Nutrition Labels


All pre-packaged food must come with a nutrition label and labels must meet strict requirements that clearly outline all nutritional information, ingredients, allergens and preservatives. Whilst all allergens must be highly visible on the packaging to avoid any health issues, preservatives can be a little more complicated to read and may be disguised by fancy language or even just denoted as a number, ie 220.

Ingredients are listed in weight value order, this means, whichever ingredient has the largest amount by weight will be listed first. So if sugar is one of the first 3 ingredients, that food product is most likely to be high in sugar. All food labels are then broken down into a serving size column and quantity per 100g column. Serving sizes are the values you need to look at if you want to know how much one serving is and quantity per 100g is the column you would use when you want to compare similar food items, say a yoghurt vs another yoghurt.

Keep In Mind - That if you eat more than the serving size, you may be consuming double or triple the amount of ingredients, which can be simple to do with foods such as cereals, chips, lollies and other foods that are not pre-packaged into a single serving size. This means you may consume double or triple the amount of calories, fats and sugars!

Ideally, You Should Be Looking For Foods With These Values.

Total Fat - 10g or less per 100g

Saturated Fat - 3g or less per 100g

Sugar - 10g or less per 100g

Fibre - 3g or more per serving

Sodium (Salt) - 300mg or less per serving

Keep In Mind - That even though you have chosen foods with 300mg of sodium or less, multiple lots of 300mg can add up quickly.


The health star rating system was developed for use in Australia and New Zealand and is a label that is placed on the front of packaging to assist shoppers in making more informed and better food choices, without having to decipher all of the jargon on the back.

The health star rating is a score out of 5 and is calculated by weighing up the 'good' and 'bad' of the product. If a product contains things like added sugars or saturated fats the score is lowered and if the product contains things like added fibre or iron the score is increased.

  • Products with a 3.0-Star Rating or lower are considered discretional or treat foods and should be only eaten occasionally.

  • Products with a 3.5-Star Rating or higher are considered good choices of foods.

  • Products with a 4.5-Star Rating or higher are considered products that contain high-quality nutrient values.

Kristie Harvey

Head Trainer & Nutrionist

BcS Nutrition & Human Physiology

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