6 Food Label Claims You Need To Understand
Updated: Sep 17
Do food labels cause you an endless amount of confusion? Do all the claims and numbers make it difficult for you to decide which product is best for you and your family?
To help you decipher all the claims made on food packaging I have summarised 6 of the most common food label claims and what they actually mean! Read on to find out more.
97% Fat Free
This would have to be one of the most common and widely misunderstood food label claims. For people looking to drop a few kilos, the words “fat free” are a huge draw card. “97% fat free” means the product contains 3% fat, however it does not necessarily mean it is low in fat and therefore the healthiest option. Foods with 3% or less fat are the only products legally allowed to make this claim. Hence, you will also see 98% and 99% fat-free products gracing your supermarket shelves.
Takeaway points: “Fat-free” does not necessarily mean healthy. The product, although fat-free, may be laden with sugar, which is not going to help an individual in their quest to shed a few kilos.
For a product to be low fat it must contain less than 3% fat (or 1.5% for liquids), however like the above claim low fat does not mean it is the healthiest choice. Large amounts of added sugars or even natural sugars will reduce the healthiness of the product.
Takeaway points: Try to avoid being drawn into what is written on the front of the packet, flip it over and take a look the fat and sugar content of the product. Aim for less than 5g total fat/100g and less than 10-15g sugars/100g.
Takeaway points: Unless it is on a meat, dairy or eggs/egg-containing product, cholesterol-free claims have no meaning. Don’t be drawn in!
Light or Lite
Widely used, largely misunderstood claim used on many food products. Unfortunately “light” or “lite”
does not necessarily mean the product is low in fat or calories. “Light” may refer to a light texture, colour or taste/flavour. The label will generally tell you what it ‘light’ about the product. For example, light olive oil has a milder flavour, but the same fat content as regular extra virgin olive oil.
Takeaway points: Make sure you read the product label and find out what is light about the product. If in doubt, read the nutrition panel.
When you see the word “fresh” on a product your mid probably flashes images of quality hand-picked
produce, merely hours old and brimming with nutrients. Unfortunately this is not the case. “Fresh” only means the product has not been subjected to freezing, canning, high temperatures or chemical treatment. However, it may have spent countless hours in refrigeration, processing and transit.
Takeaway points: If you are looking for “fresh” food, choose unpackaged, unprocessed products where possible.
Baked Not Fried
A common claim see on chips, crackers and other snack foods, which lead consumers to believe the product is lower in fat and therefore healthier. Unfortunately this is not true, as baked products can contain just as much fat as their fried counterparts, so check your food labels!
Takeaway points: Be sure to check your nutrition panel and look for the amount of fat per 100g.
Low or No Cholesterol
This is a pretty pointless claim. Why? Because it is not the cholesterol from foods we are worried about; it is the saturated and trans fats that need to be addressed if blood cholesterol levels are too high.
Many people mistake “No cholesterol” for also meaning “No Fat”, which is completely untrue. Many cholesterol-free foods, such as olive oil, nuts, margarine and avocado are all naturally cholesterol-free but still high in fat. Furthermore, plant-derived foods are naturally cholesterol-free. Only animal foods, such as meat, dairy and eggs contain cholesterol.
Keep an eye out for these claims when you are next searching the supermarket shelves for the healthiest option. Try not to be drawn into the glossy claims made on packets, instead flip it over and have a look at what it really contains. Where possible, choose fresh, unprocessed/minimally processed foods to avoid getting caught out!
Use the guidelines below to help you make a healthy choice. Be sure to always compare foods per 100g.
Total fat – Less than 10g/100g
Saturated fat – Less than 3g/100g
Sugar – Less than 15g/100g
Salt/Sodium – Less than 400mg/100g
Fibre – 7.5g/100g or more
Happy label reading!
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