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How to decode food labels


Includes a link to our Nutritional Label Decoder

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How to decode food labels

Food labels can be hard to read. With so many different values, claims, and serving sizes it's hard to know where to look and what it all means. We have compiled a few quick tips to make deciphering labels easier, so you can find out what’s in your food and how to compare products to find the best options.

Nutrition Information Panel

The Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) is the table which shows the amount of energy and nutrients in the product. This is displayed per serve of the product and per 100 grams.

The per serve info is useful to tell you how much energy and nutrients you’re eating, and the per 100 grams is useful for comparing energy and nutrients between similar products (e.g. 2 different brands of cereal).

Generally, the NIP will display energy (kJ), carbohydrates (total and sugars), fat (total and saturated), protein and sodium. It may also include other nutrients if the product makes a claim about that nutrient, e.g. if a cereal claims it is ‘high in fibre’ the NIP will also include fibre.

Download our Nutrition Label Decoder here to help you out next time you're in the supermarket.

The Ingredient List

This lists all the ingredients in the product in order of the ingredient with the most to least weight. The main ingredient will also state the %, for example in a tin of baked beans the ingredient list will start with navy beans (50%).

The ingredient list is a useful way to determine if a product is high in a particular nutrient, such as sugar or fat, because these will be listed as the first few ingredients.

The length of the ingredient list and the number of food additives (e.g. thickeners and flavours) listed can also be an indicator of how processed the food is.

The Health Star Rating System

Health Star Ratings were introduced in Australia and New Zealand in 2014 as a way of rating the nutritional value of packaged foods and being able to compare similar products.

The rating ranges from 0.5 stars (least healthy) to 5 stars (most healthy). The number of stars is calculated based on the total energy, saturated fat, sodium, sugar, fibre, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content, and is relative to the food or beverage category.

This is useful for comparing similar products (e.g. 2 different muesli bars). You’ll find the Health Star Rating on most products, but not all as food manufacturers don’t have to use it.

Your Personal Healthy Eating Quiz

What you eat or don’t eat affects how you look, feel and perform. Take our short quiz to find out what foods you could introduce to help you be your best.

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What is healthy eating?

Eating healthy is making sure you enjoy a wide variety of foods from each of the five major food groups daily, in the amounts recommended. The five major food groups as recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating are:

  1. vegetables and legumes/bean
  2. fruit
  3. lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes/beans
  4. grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
  5. milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat.

Foods are grouped together because they provide similar amounts of key nutrients and eating a variety of foods from the list above helps to promote good health and reduce the risk of disease.

How do I improve my diet?

If you want to improve your diet you have come to the right place. By completing the Healthy Eating Quiz you’ll receive instant personalised feedback and a report on your diet quality to highlight any areas where you can improve your overall eating habits. Your score is based on the frequency and variety of the foods consumed from the five major food groups mentioned above. No Money No Time can help you improve your score by providing tips, goals and suggestions. On top of this we will provide quick, cheap and healthy recipes as well as credible answers to diet hacks, myths and FAQ’s.

Is my diet healthy?

Dietary habits are different between people. Some people choose to follow a particular diet (i.e., Keto diet or vegan diet) while some have to make changes due to certain food restrictions or health conditions. If you want to know if what you usually eat is healthy, then do the Healthy Eating Quiz today to give you the answers in less than 10 minutes.

Why is healthy eating important?

Your HEQ score and personalised feedback report is based on the frequency and variety of healthy core foods you usually eat. This is important because no single food contains all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Some foods are higher in nutrients than others and people who have a lot of variety in the foods they eat are more likely to be healthy and to stay healthy. In other words, if you can eat a large variety of vegetables as opposed to only 2-3 types of vegetables, the benefits are much greater. This type of diet also helps you to feel better, think better and perform better during your usual daily activities.

Take the Healthy Eating Quiz