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Food label traps

For most of us, food shopping is something we want to get done quickly. A quick glance at the label tells us it is ‘natural’, a ‘source of dietary fibre’ or ‘low in fat’. Consumer psychology works, and we think ‘well, it must be healthy’, and the product goes into the trolley. 

How much do we really know about food labelling?
Many advertising claims are confusing and misleading. What do these buzzwords really mean?

  • Natural: creates an image of healthy, wholesome and unprocessed food. In Australia, there are guidelines for the term’s use, but the contents and the manufacturing process are not defined well.

  • Source of dietary fibre: This claim is very common for breakfast cereals. To comply with the industry code of practice a product needs at least 1.5 grams (g) of fibre each serving, (or 5% of a 30g serving). Our recommended daily fibre intake is 30g, so  at 1.5g a serve, some breakfast cereal do not contribute much to our daily needs. Look for products that contain at least 6% fibre. Good examples includes rice, wheat or oat bran.

  • Low in fat: If the fat content looks OK the sugar content is often very high. But this is not always obvious as sugar may also be listed as corn syrup, dextrose, disaccharides, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, malt, sucrose and xylitol.

  • Free range eggs: This is not legally defined in Australia. Certified organic eggs are the only free range eggs defined by the organic standard.

Unrealistic serving sizes? 
Who eats a standard serving size? A survey shows that a lot of us do not. Men helped themselves to 49% more breakfast cereal than the serving size, while women took 26% more.

One last tip
One easy step to avoid ‘unhealthy’ food is to not buy processed food. If shopping in a supermarket, buy your products from the perimeter of the shop. For more information about what to eat to improve your health feel free to contact me.

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