How to Read Food Labels

How to Read Food Labels


There are tree types of consumers.


First one who will buy food totally based on their momentary cravings. They don’t care what they eat and are in most cases are overweight or have health conditions as a result of that habit.


Then, there is group of consumers who are aware that some food is better than the other, but still their choices are random and based on “I will get that. It looks good” strategy. This group is already committed to get healthier and fitter, but not sure why they haven’t succeeded yet. That is their problem.


Finely, there is a group of consumer who make informed choices. They are label readers. They choose products based on their knowledge. They are fit and treat their bodies with most respect.


Do you read labels? Do they make sense to you? Do you know what to look at, and what to ignore?


#traffic lights


Most of products have so called “traffic light” but that depends on the country and its legislations. They will come in three colours visually indicating proportion of nutrients in food.


Red– high

Amber– medium

Green– low


This system has been design to make it easier to identify healthier food and to make better choices.


Let’s have a quick look.


Green colour for fats – it means this particular product is low in fats


Red colour for fats – it means fat content in this product is high and you should be careful of how much to eat it.


The more green and amber the better choice.


#nutritional claim- fat and sugar

Low fat foods – all food below 30 % fat you can eat regularly.


Medium fat foods– foods between 30-40% you can eat in moderate amounts.


High fat foods – 45% and higher you should eat just occasionally.


Ok, what if package is not saying % but grams?


Calculate it yourself.


Food label says


Energy 70 kcal
Protein 3 g
Carbohydrate 8 g
Fat 3 g



Focus on fats.


Label says it contains 3g of fat.


1 g of fat = 9 kcal


So multiply 3 g by 9


3 g x 9 = 27 kcal


Now look at energy. It says 70 kcal in 100 g.


Divide your 27 kcal by number of cal per serving (70 kcal)


27: 70 = 0,385


To get percentage multiply this score by 100.


0,385 x 100 = 38.5 %


So your reduced fat product is still 38.5 %. It is medium range on scale.


Most companies will avoid putting % on any products that are “reduced fat” or “low fat”


Reality may surprise you. If you were focusing on “low fat products” or “reduced fat products” in fact you unwillingly may eat too much fats on daily basis.





Very few products will have list of ingredients, listed from higher weight to lower one.


If fat or sugar is in top five positions, stay away from that product.


#how to put it together


You want to lose weight. First thing is to reduce FAT in your menu.


Did you know that the way you cook and prep your products have huge impact on fat content in the final meal?


TIP! Use baking, grilling, microwaving and steaming most of the time.


Few tips and switches;


  1. Roasted potatoes- cook them first until half way cooked. Drain water; sprinkle them with olive oil and mix so they are evenly cooked. Roast in really hot oven.
  2. Chips – bake them in the oven
  3. White sauce – use skimmed milk and corn flour. Don’t mix margarine and flour.
  4. Steam vegetables
  5. Every recipe with mayonnaise – use only ½, use or mix with thick natural yogurt.
  6. Go easy on nuts in recipe – just few is plenty
  7. If recipe says whole egg – substitute 1 ½ egg white for each whole egg.
  8. Sugar in recipes – cut sugar amount in half or use honey
  9. Any recipe with cream – switch cream witch low fat yogurt
  10. Butter in recipe – use vegetable margarine
  11. Flour in recipe – try to use (wholemeal) flour in ½ recommended amount
  12. Milk or cream in recipe – skimmed or low fat milk
  13. Any cream cheese recipe – use low fat cheese
  14. Salt in recipe – use only ½ recommended amount
  15. Soups – skim fat off the top



#fast food facts


  1. Burgers are lower in fat than fried chicken, fish Fish and chips are the highest FAT food choices
  2. Eat burgers with no sauces
  3. Pizza with no cheese is perfect
  4. Any cheese added to meal, sandwiches increase fat % significantly
  5. Salads – make sure there is no mayonnaise, salad dressing and cheese
  6. Any Indian food – Korma, creamy sauces, coconut, fried, deep fried – are packed with fat
  7. Chinese food- no deep fried (spring rolls, fried noodles, crisp meat). Know that any meat with skin is all high in fat.

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