Aiming for a Healthy Diet – Food Labeling is a Useful Tool


To have a healthy diet we need to understand what the label on our food means. Making an effort to read the labels can uncover some useful information.

For what ever reason, be it for diet, health, personal preference or cost, consumers should always have the confidence that the information on the label is accurate. This also allows buyers to compare similar products so they find the one that suits them best.

Healthy Diet – Does the label mean what it says?

For a healthy diet we need to be in control of what we put into our bodies. It is always wise to check the list of ingredients as it can sometimes reveal hidden undesirables. For example if a food claims to be low in salt, fat or sugar it is possibly high in one of the others. The traffic light system used by many outlets is often useful for highlighting this.

What’s in a name?

Food labelling today is strictly governed by law and manufacturers can not just say what they like on labels. Different terms, however, can be sometimes confusing, We recognise “fat” in the list of ingredients but can miss that butter, lard. milk solids, ghee, peanut butter are all fats.


In the same way sodium, rock salt, monosodium glutamate, sodium chloride and brine are all salt.

Dextrose, disaccharides, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, lactose, malt extract, molasses monosaccharides and sucrose are all sugars.

What does “reduced” actually mean?

We often see labels saying that an ingredient in the product is reduced. This basically means that it contains less than the standard product.

For Fat

  • half fat is 50% less that the standard equivalent
  • reduced fat is at least 25% less than the standard product
  • low fat is less than 5% fat
  • virtually fat free means the product contains less than 0.3% fat

For Salt

  • reduced salt means it contains 33% less than the standard product
  • no added salt – is as it says
  • low salt is less than 0.1g of sodium per 100g

For Sugar

  • reduced sugar is at least 25% less than the standard product
  • virtually sugar free equates to less than 0.3 sugar

Other diet terms

Fat, salt and sugar content is often the first thing we may look for when reading a food label but there are other food terms that we see and consider for a healthy diet.

  • high in fibre means the product contains 6% fibre
  • a source of fibre means it contains at least 3% fibre
  • rich in carbs means it contains at least 70% of energy from the carbohydrates it the product – and this also includes sugars
  • rich in vitamin C means it has more than 50% of the Recommended Daily Allowance
  • a source of calcium means it provides at least 25% of RDA

Labels are a healthy diet tool

There are rules that food manufacturers must follow that protect us from false claims or misleading descriptions and there are clear guidelines on what labels can and can’t show. This means that we can use this information to help us have a healthy diet.



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