Each time you grab a food packet and turn it around, you’d find a comprehensive listing of the calories, carbohydrates, vitamins, and nutrients in the food you’re buying. It’s actually legally required by the Australian government so that you’ll be properly informed and protected.

Unless you read the labels of course, all this information will mean absolutely nothing. Even worse is if you do read but fail to fully comprehend its meaning. With this write-up, you should be able to read and understand the significance of menu labels and how they relate to you.

1. Understanding Calorie Data for Weight Loss

The main reason people read labels is to keep track of their calorie count. What you might often miss, however, is the “Serving Size” that’s included in the label. You see, the calorie count indicate is based on the serving size.

For example, you have a 12-piece packet of cookies with a calorie count of 300 in a serving size of 3 cookies. This means that if you eat the whole pack, you’re actually consuming 1,200 calories instead of just 300 calories.

2. Meaning of Percent Daily Value

Another noteworthy part of the label is the Percent Daily Value (%DV) which refers to how the food contributes to your overall nutrient requirement. For example, if it says 5 percent for potassium, then this means that the food contains 5 percent of the potassium that you’re supposed to eat for that day.

Remember though, you’ll have to look at serving size again because the percentage refers to the serving size. Using the example given above, if there are 4 servings in one 12-piece packet, then eating the whole packet means you’re getting 20 percent of your potassium for the day.

This becomes significant when you consider what food items you SHOULD be eating lots of and which ones need to be minimized. As a general rule, here’s what you should keep in mind:

  •  Anything 5 percent or below is considered “low concentration”. Ideally, the sodium, cholesterol, and trans fat of the food per serving is below this, otherwise you might find yourself eating more than is allowed during that day.
  • Fiber, minerals, and vitamins are always welcome in your diet. Aim for food items that have this listed as major ingredients. If the vitamins and minerals have 20 percent or more in dietary value, then this is considered the better choice for you.

3. Allergies? The Labels Can Help!

If you have allergies, then the labels will be a big help in determining whether the food contains any of the ingredients you’re allergic to. This is perhaps the primordial concern of most people when they read labels.

Note though, the ingredient list can’t be found in “Nutrition Facts”. You’ll have to be a bit more observant and check out every corner of a packet to find the “ingredients”.

One thing you have to keep in mind is that ingredients are listed from highest concentration to the lowest. Hence, if the first ingredient on that list is sugar, this means that sugar is the material most used in the recipe.

As an added precautionary measure, you should know that the words dextrose, fructose, lactose, sucrose, glucose, galactose, and maltose are all synonymous with sugar.

4. Misleading Terms

When we say label, we’re actually referring to the whole packet – not just the information you find at the back. For example, the exterior of the packet says all natural – but what exactly does that mean? Legally – nothing.

The same goes with the “made with real ingredients” label which can be interpreted in any way you wish. These terms aren’t properly regulated and are purely for marketing purposes – so don’t rely on them too much.

Words like “superfood” are also more trendy than healthy. If the food advertises that is has “no added sugar”, this simply means that there’s no honey syrup or cane syrup added – but it can still contain fruit juices which is basically sugar. 

Finally, don’t forget that Australian food products are legally required to have an expiration date stamped clearly on the packet. Practically all the information you need to decide whether food is good for you is on the packet already – you just have to know how to interpret it correctly.