Nutrition Labels: Important Reading | Sydney Sports Medicine Centre - Education

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Nutrition Labels - Important Reading

Food labels can seem a little daunting to understand, but if you want to know exactly what you are eating , it is important to know what you are looking at.

Our experienced dietitians have put together these guidelines to help decipher the jargon.

  • The ingredients on labels are listed in order by weight, so ingredients higher on the list are present in larger amounts than ingredients lower down.

  • Food labels cannot include any nutrition claims such as “salt-reduced” or “low-fat” unless a nutrition information panel is on the packaging.

  • Don’t be tricked by the following claims:
    • Cholesterol Free – food without cholesterol may still be high in other types of fat;
    • Lite – “lite” could mean light in texture, colour or flavour. Legally it does not have to be lighter in kilojoules or fat, although it may be. Read the nutrition panel carefully;
    • Baked not fried – although it sounds healthier, it still may contain just as much fat;
    • Fat Free – just because it is fat-free doesn’t mean all the ingredients are healthy. Some fat-free foods contain higher amounts of sugar than the same products without the claim;
    • Health Food – there is no legal definition of health food. Products with these labels may still contain as much fat, sugar and salt as other products with regular labels.

  • Always compare the amount of fat and salt between different products using the “per 100g/ml”. As a general rule, look for products which provide less than 10g of fat per 100g and less than 120mg of salt per 100g.

What about the Health Star Rating?

Health Star Rating Explained
  • The Health Star Rating is found on the front of pack.
  • It is a rating system that evaluates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food.
  • The ratings range from ½ a star to 5 stars.
  • The Health Star Rating is an, easy way to compare similar packaged foods.
  • The more stars, the healthier the choice.
  • The number of stars is determined using a calculator which assesses both the positive and higher risk nutrients in food.
  • Risk Nutrients include saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugars as consuming excess of these nutrients is linked to increased rates of obesity and chronic disease.
  • Positive Nutrients include dietary fibre, protein, calcium, or certain vitamins and minerals as consuming adequate amounts of these is linked with good health.
  • The calculator was developed in consultation with Food Standards Australia New Zealand and other technical and nutrition experts.
  • You can read more about the calculator here at the official Health Star Rating government website
  • The Health Star Rating is only used on packaged foods not fresh produce so you won't see a Health Star Rating on any of these foods: fresh fruit and vegetables; alcoholic beverages; formulated products for infants and young children; non-nutritive condiments (such as vinegar, herbs and spices); non-nutritive foods (such as tea, coffee); single ingredient foods not intended to be eaten on their own (such as flour); and foods where a Nutrition Information Panel is not required.
  • The scheme is still voluntary so it is up to the manufacturer if they want to use it or not
  • The best way to use the ratings is to compare between products of the same category e.g. compare breakfast cereals with breakfast cereals, bread with bread etc.

  Sydney Sports Medicine Centre
Level 2, NSWIS Building
6 Figtree Drive
Sydney Olympic Park
NSW 2127

   02 9764 3131      

Written Correspondence
PO Box 3275
Rhodes NSW 2138


  (02) 9764 3443

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