Reading Nutrition Labels: Ingredients lists and serving sizes

I have decided to continue my “Reading Nutrition Labels” series, with this post focusing on how to read ingredients lists,  what to look out for and what a serving size really means!!

Ingredients lists: It’s quite self explanatory as to what an ingredients list tells us (the ingredients of course) … but is that all it really tells us?

The ingredients in the ingredients list are sequenced in descending order by weight. Therefore, this means that the ingredients first in the list contributes the most to the product and the ingredients last in the list contributes the least to the product.

For example- if sugar is at the top of your list, the food/beverage contains mostly sugar in comparison to its other ingredients!

So although my previous posts have been encouraging everyone to utilise the nutrition information panel of food products more, don’t forget about the just-as-important sibling, the ingredients list! It is useful to check and actually see what’s making up the majority of the food we eat so willingly. You may be shocked as to what you find!serving size chips.jpg

Serving sizes: Again, it’s quite obvious as to what a serving size tells us- the size of the serve- duh! But let’s be realistic and truthful for a moment; 7 chips is not a ‘normal’ serving size despite what the back of the chip packet is saying. So really- it’s often not telling us the serving size at all (unless you’re serving a mouse)!

The serving size listed on a product is the manufacturers suggestion of what one serve of the food is. Often it’s a ridiculously small serve that they recommend and is not realistic to a persons portion size, which is the amount a person actually consumes.twirl.jpg

For example- a normal sized twirl bar recommends 1 serve to be just half of the bar/1 finger. Who eats only HALF of a chocolate bar … not me!

Manufacturers do this to make their product look nutritionally better than what it is. For example, 1 serve of the food product may only be 300 kJ if the serving size listed is very small. However, if the manufacturer were to state the realistic serving size on their packet, their nutrition information panel would look worse as the realistic serving size may actually contain 1000 kJ.

For these reasons, using the “per 100g” column in the nutrition information panel when comparing and analysing food products is much more insightful than when using the “per serve” column.fruit veg bread.jpg

Don’t be fooled by sneaky manufacturers who attempt to disguise their not-so-great products. If it doesn’t fit nicely into the five food groups, it is likely to be a ‘sometimes’ food. And remember- some of the most nutritious food does not come in a packet!

– Your Student Dietitian, Simone Abley


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