Read Your Labels!

There is shelf upon shelf of packaged foods available in supermarket aisles. As well as providing information, food packaging serves as a major advertising tool for food companies. Labels declare to have added this and that, high fibre, low GI, low fat, heart ticks…..the list goes on and on. It is important to remember that despite all the health claims, food companies are profit-driven and just like any other business their whole purpose is to make a profit. While we Dietitian’s would love to see packaged foods avoided altogether, the reality of today’s busy world and competing priorities means many families struggle to find time to prepare everything from scratch. This article looks at the example of sugar in breakfast cereals and aims to help you see through the big sell to make healthier choices for your family.
In 2007, the Australian government invested in the first national survey dedicated to children’s nutrition and physical activity giving us some critical information about current dietary and exercise trends. One of the key findings was 71% of Aussie kids aged 4-8 years exceed the Dietary Guidelines recommended sugar intake. So, back to the cereal boxes…..
Take the Heart Foundation tick. If a food box has the tick on their product this must mean that product is healthy right? Unfortunately this is not the case. Firstly, the heart tick was designed to offer consumers an easy reference to select foods that have reduced sodium (salt) and saturated fats, sugar content is not one of the criteria required for a product to be awarded the tick. Products with lowered sodium and fat may be HEALTHIER than higher sodium and fat products, but not automatically HEALTHY. Secondly food companies must pay the Heart Foundation to award the tick, so smaller companies who cannot afford to pay these costs are over-looked entirely (which does not mean their products are high or low in any nutrient). There are heart tick ready-to-eat breakfast cereals on our supermarket shelves right now that contain a whopping 30% sugar. The Dietary Guidelines recommend sugar should make up no more than 20% of a days total energy intake. Eating a high sugar breakfast means your little one is starting the day consuming too much sugar.
The Heart Foundation has made some important contributions by encouraging manufacturers to reduce sodium and fat content of some products; however you can see a product bearing the tick is not necessarily a healthy choice. Be label aware, check out ingredients lists and nutrition panels to see what is really going into your children’s bodies. You need to look at the ‘per 100g’ section on the nutrition panel to compare nutrient content between products. It takes a bit of time to start with, but it is time worth investing.
Nourish Nutrition & Dietetics can help you become label savvy. Contact Andrea at or for further information. You can find us on Facebook here.
Andrea Cruickshank APD AN

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